The strangest “Final Crisis Aftermath” series of last year gets a sequel this year, and I still don’t really know what’s going on. But I like it.
“Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape” — which I’ll call “Escape,” because words don’t come cheap on this here internet — told the story of Tom Tresser trapped in some kind of weird extra-dimensional prison. It was “The Prisoner” meets Ivan Brandon’s brain, courtesy of the DC Universe. It was strange and weirdly paced and elliptical and oblique. I’m still not sure I made sense of the whole thing.
“Nemesis: The Imposters” follows from the events of that series, and it alludes to “The Electric City” and “Brother Eye” and the time Tom Tresser, a.k.a. Nemesis, spent in bizarro-jail. It’s not so much a flashback as a hallucination here, as Tresser races across the page in his yellow 1974 Plymouth Barracuda, shooting mobsters with a paralysis gun.
This issue is a bit more linear than any issue in the “Escape” series — or at least more down-to-earth — but it still has a strong whiff of the unusual. Ivan Brandon isn’t giving away all his secrets up front. He’s allowing the story to bend and fold and circle back, and he’s allowing for more than a few surprises.
One of the surprises is the strong presence of the Joker in this story. When the Clown Prince of Crime gets as many pages as he does in “The Imposters” #1, he’s usually plastered on the cover. Not here. Here, the Joker appearance is a shock, and it’s playful and brutal and fun. And, once we reach the end, it turns out that he’s a bigger part of the story than we imagined. It’s nice — and rare — to have moments that make you reinterpret the pages that you’ve already read. But Brandon gives us that pleasure here, just as he did in “Escape.”
Inking his own pencils here, Cliff Richards has a bit of classic John Cassaday in his layouts, and a bit of 1980’s era-Kyle Baker in the embellishments. He’s better with the Joker’s twisted visage than he is with the more normal Tom Tresser’s, but he’s really good with the Joker. He gives the character a pain and a sadness to go with the terror of an evil clown. His wild gestures contrast with the tense rigidity of the other characters in the panels with him. Richards is good and if the series is headed in an even weirder direction — as it seems to be — then he’s a perfect choice.
But I don’t really know where this series is headed, and that’s its charm. We’ll just have to buckle in to the back seat of that Barracuda and enjoy the ride. Even if it launches us off a precipice.