Is It Wednesday Yet?
26 May 2009 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!
Our grading scale is simple:
Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 20 May 2009
Writer: Joe Casey
Inkers: Rob Stull, Mick Gray, Wayne Frucher and ChrisCross
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover: Stanley Lau
I should probably announce right now that there's absolutely no way I'd have ever lifted this book from the shelves of my own volition. I didn't read Final Crisis, and I've never heard of Super Young Team, the adolescent stars of the series that evidently emerged during the course of 52. If DC's customary lack of an introductory paragraph weren't enough, the rainbowy cover and seemingly generic character designs would have only served to drive me further toward intentional ignorance.
But what's that old adage about books and their covers, something about a premature judgment? I'm not sure what connection this series has to Final Crisis (and there's a good chance it's under my radar), but as a lighter look at the fame and fashion of being an internationally recognized superhero, Dance is a shocking success. With codenames like "Most Excellent Superbat" and "Atomic Lantern Boy," there's no question which classic heroes this squad apes, nor how seriously their book takes itself. And while such a flippant tone breeds a natural worry that the series might never take itself seriously, the amount of personality and originality that bubbles over in this issue is enough to compensate for its eccentricities — at least on the short term. Dance's team of heroes are bona fide rock stars, not just because of the way they're presented by the publicists under their employ, but in the way they act, talk, walk and generally carry themselves. In buying into their own hype, they're making it much easier for you to do the same.
Although there's little doubting its exuberance, Joe Casey's storytelling does occasionally overexert itself in an attempt to prove it's down with what today's kids are into. The concept of mobile tweets taking the place of thought balloons is fresh, and seems innocent enough the first few times it comes up. After the fourth or fifth instance, though, the constant interruptions start to become irritating, like a persistent IM buddy who doesn't realize you're trying to get some work done. That's not the only new technique the writer fails to get off the ground. I'll applaud him for trying something different, for applying an extra layer of the team's personality to the mechanics of the book itself, but I wish he'd used his gimmicks a bit more sparingly.
Casey's artistic partner, ChrisCross, brings a bouncy visual approach that's right in line with the young, energetic vibe introduced by its cast. The club scenes look and feel like club scenes, and they're balanced by the flat, clinical aura that's a perfect match for the team's stuffy, corporate-financed headquarters. Cross brings a great sense of timing to the page, accompanied by a nice understanding of the issue's pacing. When the scenery is meant to be moving at a leisurely pace, the team's body language follows suit. The stars aren't constantly flexing, gritting their teeth and coiling to strike, and they certainly aren't afraid to step out and define themselves as individuals, even if the plot doesn't afford them more than a couple dedicated panels in which to do so. Casey brings the team's heart and soul, while Cross establishes its spirit.
There's no doubt in my mind that many of the intricacies of this story were lost on me. After all, I strolled in with little to no knowledge of the characters, their place in DC's ever-expanding multiverse or their general direction as individuals. And while Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1 didn't exactly answer all (or even most) of my questions, it also didn't leave me feeling lost and abandoned, alone in the cold in a strange land. It's got its highs and lows — at times it's a bit too manic for its own good, but at others that's what makes it so endearing. Perhaps most importantly, Dance has promise, and with five issues left in the miniseries, there's plenty of time to capitalize on that. Worth a borrow, with the potential for bigger and better things in the future.
Publisher: DC Comics / Wildstorm
Released: 20 May 2009
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Colorist: Jonny Rench
Cover: Trevor Hairsine
As fabulously decadent musicians, the members of The Clap shouldn't want for much. They're a part of the biggest band on the planet — drinking, brawling and screaming their way through life, and generally doing whatever they please whenever they like. Or at least, that's what they want you to think. The band parties hard, that much is a fact, but they're also using that worldwide notoriety as a cover for their more illicit activities away from the bright lights and shrill amps of the tour. Not only is the group in demand as musicians, but they're also a hot commodity as a top-notch metahuman kill squad, dealing in political assassination by day and punk rock by night.
As you might expect, Killapalooza writer Adam Beechen constantly strives to top himself in terms of nasty violence and inventive use of censored vocabulary. The action doesn't even calm down when the team steps out of their work clothes and settles back into their "civilian" lives as The Clap. Like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, if every single member of the group is a racecar, they've been running in the red for about 15 years. They're constantly spoiling for a fight, whether it's with a small terrorist cell, their fans, other bands or each other.
The team's frequent fighting and bloodletting leaves little question about their motivations. If these guys can't even slow down long enough to get lights-out drunk together, I can understand why they'd need an outlet for their emotions as violent as the one they've chosen. It doesn't, however, make them all that appealing as lead characters. Spending a few minutes with these guys is like watching a semi and a locomotive collide headfirst at top speed, then throw it into reverse and get ready to do it again. The train wreck aspect is fascinating, but I'm not especially involved as anything more than a startled (and smugly entertained) bystander.
Trevor Hairsine's artwork has a gritty, minimal but realistic Hitch-meets-Maleev slant to it. It fits right in with both the grungy, slutty atmosphere of the music scene and the harsh, lethal world of agents and assassins. Occasionally, the artist's characters can come off as too ambiguous (I didn't figure out that two members of the team were women until the middle of the issue), but he can play that off as a clever snipe at the constantly androgynous nature of the music industry, so in this instance I guess I can let it slide.
There's more than a passing similarity to Millar and Hitch's work on The Ultimates in Killapalooza, and that goes beyond the tone and style of Hairsine's artwork. Beechen's pull-no-punches storytelling is also clearly influenced by Millar's hard line approach, and the team even has its own miniature Nick Fury to round them up and point them in the right direction when things get a bit too rowdy. I wouldn't go so far as to call it an homage, but it's damn close. I guess as inspirations go, they could have chosen worse.
I can't shake the feeling that I really shouldn't have liked this as much as I did. It reeks of stream of consciousness writing, full of the kind of puns and barbs that you can't help but snicker at, no matter how terrible. It's ballsy, which accounts for about 95% of its charm, and at least as far as debut issues go, that's good enough for me. Beechen and Hairsine have left enough doorways open to take this series in any number of directions, and if nothing else they've used its premiere to announce that nothing is truly out of bounds. This is not the best book I've ever recommended you buy, and it's certainly not for everyone, but it is worth a closer look just to be sure.