This is one of the strangest DC comics of the year.
Not just this particular issue, but the whole series. Issue #5, in particular, features so much straight-faced camp, so much overblown intensity, so much of the old sturm and drang, that it collapses under its own weight. But the collapse is so much fun to watch, and the resulting wreckage so entertaining, that I can’t say that this is a bad comic. I can’t say I don’t like it. It is what it is, but what it is seems like a comic that’s been put together by a writer and artist who have looked over what fans seem to go crazy about, injected a ton of that kind of stuff, almost without any sense of logic, and then threw in a few of their own pet characters for fun.
This is a bizarre Superfriends episode as directed by Michael Bay and scripted by Brad Meltzer.
This is the DC event comic that Neal Adams’s Continuity Studios might have put together in the future and sent back into the past via a Pangea-powered time machine.
This is a comic that begins with girls in bikinis and ends with an archer with an armed ripped off.
It’s hard to classify.
Mauro Cascioli is a fantastic artist. I don’t know if he’s a great comic book artist, but he’s great at discrete images. Alex Ross is the best painter of superhero costumes with seams, but Cascioli is the best painter of superheroes in action. There’s one panel of the Flash punching out Dr. Spectrum in this issue that tells you all you ever need to know about either character. And with the blood gushing from Spectrum’s face, it tells you all you need to know about the DCU, circa the first decade of the 21st century.
This is serious business, after all. What with the gory violence and the histrionics and the serious discussions about proactive superheroics. Except its not really serious at all. It goes so far beyond seriousness that it’s just one ridiculous page after another. James Robinson gives us dramatic dialogue like, “I’m just going to my room to call Lian and wish her sweet dreams like I do every night,” and Cascioli makes sure that every line is delivered as if it’s a scream for “FREEDOM” delivered from the mighty lungs of a blue-faced Mel Gibson.
Except, you know, replace “Justice” for “Freedom,” in this case.
But when it comes down to it, it’s a comic about a talking gorilla, a space trippy-hippy, and the Animal Man, teaming up with Extreme Justice and fighting about pretty much everything. It’s absurd. It’s goofy. It’s kind of brilliant in its own man-they-can’t-possibly-have-intended-this kind of way.
And James Robinson ties it all together with a six-page text piece on Damon Runyon, Mac Raboy, and Mort Meskin. Because why not?