Wednesday, 25 July 2012

National Comics #1 Eternity review

Christopher Freeman died, returned to life and now he has the ability to summon the newly slain, with a 24-hour deadline to solve their murders. In this debut story he's compelled to team up with the ghost of an antiques dealer, while trying to save his job with the Coroner's office - his boss is unimpressed with his constant lateness.

Christopher has his reasons, though, and they add a touch of sweetness to this DC Universe spin on the police procedural. An efficient voiceover courtesy of writer Jeff Lemire sets up Christopher's situation, before he 'goes live' and lets dialogue and action propel us to the issue's end.

And what an end ... it's not a cliffhanger, but it's a terrific set-up for a sequel and beyond.

While the story is titled 'Kid Eternity', after the Golden Age character who inspired this new take, Christopher doesn't call himself Eternity here. The nearest we get is seeing the word on a poster early in this issue. It doesn't matter, though. What does is the skill with which this one-off has been put together by Lemire and the rest of the creative team. It's a straight-on, done-in-one that satisfies while leaving a few questions hanging concerning the nature of Christopher's powers and perceived mission.

And there's one question that's not raised directly, but it's there from the moment we see how Christopher died - who was behind the weapon that killed him? Can he solve his own murder?

In the Forties, Kid Eternity summoned historical characters and storybook folk with the cry of 'Eternity'. Christopher's collection system is rather less clean, but a lot more dramatic; I like it. The interplay between Christopher and murder victim Darby Quinn is entertaining, and it helps us get to know both players' characters. And the resolution is pleasingly plausible rather than convoluted.

Bringing Eternity to life on the page are penciller Cully Hamner, inker Derec Donovan and colourist Val Staples. Hamner's panel-to-panel storytelling is sublime - he seems unable to make a bad artistic choice - and his renderings of people and settings are equally good. Donovan and Staples enhance Hamner's illustrations, strengthening and emphasising every step of the way. I especially like the contrast between the vibrant police squadroom and the clinical silence of Christopher's examination suite. The loneliness and confusion in his eyes is telling, and the simple visual cue that he's in touch with the dead, smart and attractive. The banality of death, the horrors of the not-quite afterlife ... everything comes together splendidly.

The only thing I don't like about this issue is that a supporting character who used to be a portly guy is now a big ol' hunk, a DC New 52 phenomena we could perhaps call 'being Wallered', or 'getting Candied'. It's so predictable, and while nodding to diversity, the change is actually pulling in the other direction, implying that fat folk can't be front and centre. And you'll not be surprised to learn that this chap who was formerly White, is now Black.

Still, the character in question has charisma to spare, and I hope we learn more about him. I'm dying to see more of Eternity, full stop - let's hope we don't have to wait forever.

17 comments:

  1. I wasn't planning on picking up this issue (despite my tremendous admiration for Jeff Lemire), but I think you just sold me on it!

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    1. They pay me 10 per copy, y'know!

      Anyway, let me know what you think, either here or at DC Gent!

      And if anyone's not visited, that's at:

      http://dcgent.wordpress.com/

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    2. Yeah, you sold me too. But you're always doing that ...

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    3. I'm actually influencing you from the Phantom Zone, Colin ...

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  2. This one does seem interesting enough. And while it's different enough to separate it from Resurrection Man and even JLDark, the concept still retains some similarity. Props to DC(OMG I just said something positive about DC:()for letting this thing get published. Of course he fact that current wunderkind Jeff Lemire's on it probably helped tremendously. And loving the fact that Cully Hammer's still around and kicking. Maybe it's just me, but I haven't really heard too much about him lately. Glad he's still around.

    This rebooted version sounds okay enough, it keeps the basic core of the character, but puts him in a more pulp-ish, noir-sh world. I'd have liked it if this iteration could still summon the heroic or villainous dead, or even mythical beings again. Maybe he will if allowed to continue, but probably not.

    I also agree about this trend of beautifying ordinary supporting characters that DC's so currently enamored with. It's like they've forgotten that being diverse just doesn't apply to switching races. You can have diverse characters that are fat, ugly, whatever. Especially fat people, since at least in this country, obesity rates are skyrocketing every year.

    But again, that's DC for ya'.
    Good review as always Martin. God bless ya'

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    1. Hi Dale, I know Cully Hamner designed a fair few New 52 costumes, but apart from that, I dunno where he's been either. It is indeed good to have him back.

      I really do hope that as Christopher figures things out he learns how to summon fictional folk from some storybook limbo. Let whimsy fight the darkness.

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  3. This was so good if this were an ongoing it'd already be on my pull list!

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    1. I was going to post something to the same effect so figured I'd just reply here!

      Really enjoyed this and would, indeed, buy an ongoing by Lemire in a heartbeat.

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  4. I was a little disappointed with this issue. I guess I was hoping for a fresh new concept, especially from this titles debut. I was a little too stunned that Kid eternity was really just a cross of ghost whisperer and pushing daisies to enjoy the book.

    But Lemire puts the story together pretty well so I started slowly enjoying the story for what it was by page 17.

    What I do like about this is the one shot approach they're taking. 32 pages lets the story breathe too. And I also see what DCs doing with this title, almost like their version of top cow's pilot season line; a testing ground for revitalized old IPs and maybe movie and TV properties.

    Anyhow, im not poo poo-ing on it, but i guess i was expecting more of a Unique take from lemire. But if this wasn't my cup of tea, maybe the next one will be? I'm on board with National comics!

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    1. Ghost Whisperer I can see, Pushing Daisies ... I think I managed half an episode before the tweeness rotted my teeth and I had to switch off. So I missed any similarities. I'm sorry you we a tad disappointed, Biggedy. What's up next, Madame X?

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    2. The wife and I loved Pushing Daisies (it is rather sweet). But the 'power' of the Pushing Daisies guy is that he can bring back dead people for only a minute or so. If it goes over a minute, then someone else in the vicinity has to die in he/she/it's place. Within that minute, the main character then asks the un-dead questions in order to help them out from their (usually) untimely death.

      Anyhow... I'm not sure who I'd like next to be featured in National Comics. I always did like Doctor 13, just from the couple back-up stories I read way back when. I'd like a legit reboot of him. I even bought the Azzarello/Chiang trade and enjoyed it for the tongue and cheekiness that it was...

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    3. I rather enjoyed the Dr 13 strip in Ghosts back in the day. Did you see his surprising New 52 debut the other week?

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  5. I liked this comic, but the concept was exactly as I feared, too damn generic. We've seen this idea before, it's not new. It's been handled in Ghost Whisperer, Medium, Pushing Daisies, Tru Calling, and probably other shows that I haven't seen. The thing is it lacked all of the originality of these other series (except Ghost Whisperer which I have no clue how it lasted as long as it did). I just felt it was very, very safe.. more of like a pilot for a new TV series or a movie using all those lovely recycled ideas than a new original concept. I hope DC does bring Kid Eternity back one day, but this wouldn't be it.

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    1. I certainly see your point, Jan, but we've only had one story. It could develop and get more interesting to you. If we get the Jeff Lemire of Superboy (lots of things going on), rather than Animal Man (all Rot, all the time), that is.

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    2. Tbh, I just find this Kid Eternity to be too boring to be the one I'd like to see long term. I wanna see him be a little more goofy-extreme, rather than so.. cliched trying to solve murders. It's seriously been done.

      I like Jeff Lemire and I like his writing by in large (though I don't have his Superboy). He made me love Ray Palmer as Atom and I told him as such to his face. But this just didn't seem genius/inventive to me. If it was an on-going, it seems to me it'd end up like Sandman Mystery Theatre which got very repetitive quickly even if it was good.

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