Sunday, 31 August 2008

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament 1 review

What do you do on the day before doomsday? If you're one of the superheroes in this comic, you talk. A lot.

Geo Force talks to Black Lightning about his plan to kill Deathstroke, the man who corrupted his sister and put her on the road to death. Then he speaks to Challenger of the Unknown Rocky Davis about the same thing. Outsider Grace also talks to Rocky, about her lack of a belief system. Rocky talks to Black Lightning about Geo Force.

Why is everyone talking to Rocky, suddenly? Because despite more than 50 years of comic book life, we never knew that when not challenging the unknown, he's running a superhero confessional. He sits there, unseen by them, and acts as priest.

I really wish I were making this up. Brad Meltzer did. He also made up Grace's lack of belief in the existence of Hera and other godly types. That's Grace who is a member of the Bana tribe, sisters of the Paradise Island Amazons who were, er, created by Hera and her kind.

Why is everyone so chatty? Because this issue takes place the night before they expects the world to end. They expect this because Clark Kent told them so. How will it end? They don't quite know. Hmm, doesn't that sound like an Unknown worth challenging?

Nah, not when, like Starfire, you could hang around the grave of the Flying/Falling Graysons and hope Nightwing turns up (Titans communicators apparently aren't working, perhaps to do with the lack of electricity mentioned by Brion). She reckons 'He always comes here. Like everyone else on a night like tonight . . .' It seems there have been previous End of Everything Eves, and Dick had nothing better to do than stand by your grave.

My memory must be going. Last time the DCU was in major schtum I recall Nightwing, Starfire, Black Lightning and chums actually trying to do something about it. Meltzer tries to get round this here by having Brion tell us that 'This time, there's nothing to punch.'

So what, the heroes just sit round on their arses, waiting for the monsters to come and get them? They don't actually try anything? Maybe an investigation? I heard tell Dick Grayson wasn't bad at that.

So where's Dick? He's gone to Gotham City to have fun swooping down into alleys on batlines with Tim and Bruce, for old times' sake, perhaps. We're not told why. Batman, the man with the plan, has no plan.

Wonder Woman, meanwhile, is following ancient Greek tradition by burying coins, with Donna Troy. Well, that was the idea; Donna is burying her wedding ring, apparently under the impression that dead hubby Terry Long is out there somewhere, to come back to. Poor dumb Donna.

And all over the DCU heroes are hugging and, in one case, shagging.

JLA leader Black Canary has a plan, we're told; she's gathering an army of heroes for the following day. Why act now when you can spend time tracking down 'the last members of Primal Force'? (I'm guessing this takes place just before the gathering of heroes in Final Crisis 3, though we're told that's the result of Alan Scott's superhero draft rather than Dinah Lance. Answers on a postcard . . .)

Not that we see this. We do see Black Lightning invite Geo Force for a last supper with his family - no doubt the wielder of the black lightning is on barbecue duty.

Brion declines, he has places to go, villains to kill. Oh, and obits to write - he tells us he's written his obituary for the world to see . . . that's the world he doesn't believe is going to be around in a day or two.

Silly old Brion. Off he goes to make a right pig's ear of killing Deathstroke, his big idea being to take down Slade Wilson in the alley where the latter slit son Jericho's throat (if only he'd sliced off that perm). But Slade is prepared - remember, this is the guy Meltzer had take down most of the JLA in about a page, back in Identity Crisis. That was convincing.

Here, against just one hero, his initial success is more believable, as he used Brion's true super-power - infinite stupidity - against him. At the start of this book we're told Brion is more powerful than ever. Rocky notes that he inadvertently moves Challengers Mountain three inches when he gets emotional. So does the man with the power of the earth upload a mini-mountain on Deathstroke's head? Nah, after Deathstroke jumps out of the way of a three-way fisting, he just stands there on a floating rock and tries talking him to death. Finally, hero and villain clash and, his power neutered, Brion slits his own throat, to get close enough to Deathstroke to gut him with his own sword. In a powerful page the two lie there, dead.

Or not. Both survive. Here's a great chance to have a D-list hero die decently while taking out the Mary Sue of the villain world, and does Meltzer take it? Does he heck. Deathstroke will fight another day and Brion lies on a hospital bed, ashamed that he's letting Black Lightning misinterpret the fight.

Clark, meanwhile, is sitting on a swing with Pa Kent, being miserable. He's telling Pa how great a job he did in raising him to do good, while doing precisely nothing (well, apart from disappearing from the bench for the odd panel - hey, he was blocking our view of Pa).

The only fella who does a good deed in this wrongheaded comic is Len Snart, Captain Cold. He stops another bad guy from assaulting a store owner.

Thank God, then, for Hal Jordan, who turns up on the final page, all gung ho and ready for battle - an actual hero rather than a loser.

The closest this nonsense comic has to a saving grace is the artwork of Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert and John Dell (I'm guessing he inked Adam, please correct me as necessary). Adam's stuff is powerful, and I enjoyed it, but his father's work is simply mythic, possessing the easy grace of a legend. The face of Captain Cold alone is a masterclass in providing character through line.

As for Meltzer's script, it reads convincing. Statements are made which seem right for the situation, but they really only work if you believe the heroes of the DCU have been replaced by a legion of losers. There's plenty of melodrama, but not enough drama that can be held up to the light.

If this is truly the last will and testament of the DC heroes I'd rather they died intestate.

1 comment:

  1. I found this book to be very interesting in the fact that they took relatively small-time characters and showed what they were doing while the big-wigs were doing their shock and awe thing.

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