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Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #6 (of 6)

In which we uncover a few attractive gems in an old cavern, mined a thousand times over, it seems. The point of this particular arc, co-plotted by Alan Moore and Peter Hogan and scripted by the latter, is that a strange disturbance in space has caused time to become unstuck back on Our Heroes’ homeworld, and Silver and Golden Age-style heroes are running amok temporarily before fading back into the past, but the damage they cause is quite permanent. Historical events are starting to repeat as well, such as the bombing of Hiroshima, which causes considerable concern in our modern times. By the time we reach this closing installment of the series, agents of the US government have had their fill of such Greatest Hits, and have launched a powerful weapon into space to take care of the problem, the focal point of the time twisting, the starship of long-missing space hero Andrew Bryant. But there’s superheroes aboard that ship: Superman (and Tom Strong) analogue Tom Strange, and Batman stand-in The Terror. Except, The Terror died long ago, and it’s actually a darker, more violent computer simulation of his personality, which has seized the body of The Terror’s boy sidekick, and wants to control time to benefit its own troubled personality. World’s Finest, ladies and gents!

There quite a lot of gore in this book, but it’s pretty necessary to demonstrate how far the revamped Terror has gone, and what he’s willing to do to maintain control over both his own life and the very course of the superheroic world of Terra Obscura. And if you’re thinking that this sounds quite a lot like something that Moore has done before, even if you can’t quite place exactly where, then you’re with me on this one. There’s plenty of finagling with characters that closely resemble DC Icons romping about through events that closely resemble DC History in Moore’s career, and this particular spin across the floor doesn’t even benefit from a full Moore script; Hogan doesn’t really do anything wrong, and his grasp of the characters is actually quite good, but there’s still a certain spark absent from the proceedings that otherwise could push the book a little farther up the satisfaction scale. Or maybe we’ve seen this enough that more needs to be done for this sort of plot to really impress; as it stands it’s a cool, fun little superhero work with cozy commentary, slipped on like a favorite pair of jeans.

But it’s far from a bad book, although I don’t believe sales are very impressive (not that any of the ABC books have been pulling in blockbuster numbers recently). Yanick Paquette’s pencils (aided by three inkers who don’t even get their first names listed in the credits, although one of them is regular collaborator Karl Story) provide some nice modern superhero art, though a bit more slanted toward huge muscles and big breasts than is average for an ABC title. The storytelling ability is there. The fights are good, drawing some impact from the disquieting image of a contemporary superhero blasting off half the skull of a Silver-Age teen version of one of the protagonists. And the conflict’s resolution, which not entirely unexpected if you’ve been paying attention, does carry a certain gravitas, albeit a familiar one, matching the running feel of the series thus far.

The first “Terra Obscura” series was divisive enough; it was essentially a massive Event crossover experience involving characters that we know almost nothing about, at times seemingly referencing established relationships and character development in the imaginary solo books that these characters inhabit beyond the physicality of the miniseries presented (although it must be said that many of these characters do have origins in our authentic Golden Age). It was somewhat successful; at times pleasantly dizzy and hustled, at times simply obtuse, and occasionally sort of boring. This volume pursued a more typical Moore theme, and a certain consideration of comics past as translated into comics future that joins he and his contemporary, Grant Morrison, as contentious as the two may be toward one another personally. This is a more hands-off Moore anyway, of course, though scripter Hogan has a certain charm, as does the series as a whole.

Adam Strange #6 (of 8)

More fighting! The fights here are better than the fights last issue, and the art even seems a bit brighter. For all the glossy pulp excitement, however, I think the book has developed something of a problem with its characters: many of them are failing to register. I know I’m not the first to note that the Omega Men really aren’t very compelling as a supporting cast here; thus, a certain turn of events this issue does little more than signal the beginning of more action, when I think it could offer just a little bit extra. In addition, the big villain is a snore, perhaps because this is only his second appearance in the series thus far and he’s still just sitting around looking cool and threatening while devouring lifeforce. Unless he’s not actually the big villain (or worse, he is the series’ big villain but he’s just being built up for his future role as big villain in another upcoming miniseries). Where would a good slab of throwback pulp sci-fi be without a big villain? Who knows.

There’s no new guest stars this issue, although we get a little more Vril Dox, who musses up the climax of Adam’s mission, the moment he’s been waiting for for so long. Don’t sweat it, though: next issue we get the Darkstars. Not quite sure who they are, but if their appearance is keeping with the pattern that the series has established so far, I’m sure they’re space-faring characters from DC past that are getting another chance to strut across the stage. And this isn’t the only current DC series that features plenty of revivals of old characters from deep in the corporate vault, as I’m sure you’re aware. The trick is, a Grant Morrison could probably make most of these half-forgotten heroes seem interesting and fresh, even without the top-down revisions of a “Seven Soldiers”. Here, writer Andy Diggle has everyone wander out and say their lines, and maybe a bunch of readers go “Ah. I think I recall them,” and I don’t think a much stronger reaction could be expected, since everyone seems a bit too bland, which isn’t good when you’re trying to create excitement about all of these characters, as I expect DC is trying to do.

But it still looks great (and to keep with my above comparison, I can’t wait for artist Pascal Ferry’s upcoming work with Morrison on the “Mister Miracle” wing of “Seven Soldiers”). Adam remains the most rounded, and most interesting character in the book, and his personality can stave off the lurking banality of the special guests. The final page was cute. How will we wrap it up?

The Punisher MAX #18


Oh dear, this was a nice arc. This was the sort of arc we should be expecting from Garth Ennis every time. I mean, the image of The Punisher parachuting out of a live flying nuclear missile is the sort of thing that a young Frank Castle fan imagines. Plus: hard-boiled life or death choices on the tundra! A rousing gun safety speech! There’s only one shooting this issue, and it’s not by Frank! And the sheer bad-ass mystique of the title character wins the respect and nervous admiration of both Russia’s military elite and Our Nation’s Armed Forces, who deliver a clear pro-Punisher mandate at the close of this storyline. Nick Fury has a dirty mouth. That is all.