Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Art Balazar, Cecilia Sunbeam, Commodore Murphy, DC, Franco, JG Guara, JJ Houston, JP Mayer, LL Houston, Mo, Prince Mohammed Qahtanii, The Green Team, Travis Lanham, Wil Quintana
Written by Art Balazar and Franco
Pencils by JG Guara
Inks by JP Mayer
Colours by Wil Quintana
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by DC
Teenage trillionaires. It’s not the most relatable concept in the world, right now, I know, but DC’s unofficial companion book to Gail Simone’s The Movement sets itself at the exact opposite end of the lifestyle spectrum to both that and Occupy Comics. It’s a blisteringly risky (Or, frankly, idiotic) move, especially from a company that’s part of a global megacorporation so huge it could make a decent fist of invading any given European country. After all, the front cover shows one character drinking from a golden champagne bottle and another trying to get her pet cheetah under control whilst money falls around them. The message isn’t so much mixed here as cut out of random newspapers and mailed in one letter at a time.
The really odd thing is, it’s actually pretty good. Balazar and Franco are desperately aware of how hard a sell the book is and they get around it thanks to two things; angst and Tony Stark. The angst comes from the main character, Prince Mohammed Qahtanii, or Mo, to his friends. Mo is a young man caught in the shadow of his father and desperate to break out of it and he does that the same way every teenager does; by rebelling. However, given how rich Mo’s family is, his version of rebelling is attending a quasi-legal tech fair. He’s a really sweet, endearing main character and the best jokes in the book comes from his inner monologue and genuine innocence. There are a couple of gags that get within sight of the sort of work Chris Priest used to do on Justice League Task Force or The Ray and coming from me that’s very high praise, believe me.
Which brings us to Tony Stark. Or rather, the shape Tony Stark has left in modern comics. The idea of the slightly feckless rich engineer turned superhero is an interesting one (After all, three Iron Man movies and counting) because it offers the perfect combination of square jawed hero and nerd. Tony’s an attractive, if spectacularly labour intensive figure and he’s also proof that that particular superhero trope is extremely popular. As a result, Balazar and Franco opt to riff on it with Commodore Murphy, the book’s other primary lead. Murphy’s trust fund runs to the trillions, he’s a global celebrity, dates an actress and yet he sets up Pop Up Expos or Poxpos. These are short deadline tech fairs that are designed to put the exhibitors under the sort of pressure brilliance is born from and Commodore turns up, looks, invests in what’s interesting to him and leaves. He’s also openly building the sort of arsenal that Tony, or his frat brother over in Gotham, already have. This is a fascinating central idea, and it’s balanced by some entertainingly off the wall PoxPo exhibitors. The remote-controlled surgery via iphone is fun but the standout has to be the car that runs on the internet. This is where Balazar and Franco really go to town and if the rest of the book is packed with this sort of demented future tech it’ll continue to read like nothing else in the DC universe.
There are problems, however. The sudden appearance of a supervillain at the end of the book not only feels rushed but looks disturbingly like the 99%/1% debate turned into a powered armored fistfight. Which is actually kind of a fun idea let’s face it but the book’s too early in its run to know if it’ll be handled successfully. Similarly, the female characters, Cecilia Sunbeam and Lucia Lyn Houston don’t do much other than react to the technology and explain the plot. They’re well written, and get a hell of a lot more page time than a lot of DC female characters but, again, it’s too early to tell if they’re going to be characters in their own right or merely a support structure for Commodore and Mo.
JG Guara handles the pencils and does a good job, especially with the characters. They all look not just convincingly young but in proportion and realistic, which grounds the fantastic elements of the book really well. JP Mayer and Wil Quintana’s inks and colours are similarly good, especially with the characters and the action scenes, especially Commodore’s money-coloured suit of armour. Finally, Travis Lanham’s lettering is really impressive, dealing with multiple characters’ speech patterns, and Mo’s endearing running commentary, without ever getting tied up in knots and always leading the reader around the page.
This is the oddest book I’ve seen DC publish in years. I have no idea how long it’ll run or how well it’ll do, but I do know it’s trying to do something genuinely different and, so far, it’s succeeding. Give it a try, especially if you’ve fought shy of the New 52 up to now.
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