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The Weird Superheroes of 10/17: Jog put the date on the other side of the colon this time (and more hi-jinx to follow)

Joe McCulloch

Last night I had a dream that I was reading Dirk Deppey’s blog, and he had a really great turn of phrase involving cats. I can’t remember what it was. Shit, I can always use a good cats phrase…

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #2 (of 6): The best and most telling part of this issue is when “00.05,” the time-traveling fifth member of the titular superhero family who’s gone way into the future and grown old trying to figure out a way back, suddenly hears the answer to the time-travel formula from a statue he’s had a crush on (no real women left alive, you see), only to dump her and zap back to his youth. It’s a funny sequence, but not really because writer Gerard Way plays the dialogue as particularly absurd. It’s artist Gabriel Bá that’s trusted to make the old man’s face beam with comedic glee, and to leave the discarded statue in just the right pose.

I’m not saying Way doesn’t stumble a bit — I could have done without the newspaper headline screaming “IT’S A PERFECT DAY” amidst the ruins of civilization (although hell, maybe that was Bá too) — but there’s a sort of trust at work here between words and visuals that isn’t always seen in superhero comics. It keeps the book smooth and pleasing, even as it rumbles over some familiar territory, sedately observing the stolid team leader and the rebel hothead getting into a fight, and scanning the usual frayed superhero-team-as-family bonds.

Nice particulars, though. I like that the team (gathered to pay ‘respects’ to their dead father/mentor) is so comprehensively lacking in control over their lives that even their reforming is dictated to them by outside forces. The notion of a song so perfectly calibrated that it destroys the world is a decent one, decent enough to overcome the old ‘rejected teammate tempted by evil’ scenario. Nate Piekos’ lettering is really swell.

I trust things will get odder, but if all straightforward superhero comics were GOOD in this way, I’d read them too.

The Programme #4 (of 12): Now, here’s a series that keeps threatening to get really good. The premise — contemporary shades-of-gray world conflicts are brushed aside when forgotten US and USSR superhumans wake up for an old-timey clash between superpowers — is very sturdy. Writer Peter Milligan has some good bits in this issue involving an American superhuman who thinks he’s Senator Joseph McCarthy, mumbling about Communists before blasting a supporting character’s arm off with his laser beam eyes. That’s good readin’!

However, most of this issue is actually about some uninteresting fellow in the gulag who’s scared of being raped, and reminisces about how Stalin’s Russia was full of nondescript danger and intrigue. Then he’s freed instead of raped, which is fortunate for him. I do still like the names of the Soviet superheroes (REVOLUTION! STALINGRAD!), but that’s all this chapter has going for it in terms of script.

C.P. Smith’s art continues to frustrate, in that it’s sometimes striking, like in the panel with the exploding arm (colorist Jonny Rench helps a lot), but sometimes awkward – I can tell what’s happening in panels 4 and 5 on page 2, but I don’t believe it. Further, his shadowed characters have a way of looking alike when given similar hairstyles and accessories, which makes the parts of this issue involving two men with glasses and short haircuts rough navigating, even though one of them is shot before they start looking alike.

Still, that last page? Sen. Joe “Optic Blast” McCarthy (R-WI) preparing to deliver an important message about America to a recalcitrant fellow superhero… possibly with his fists? I keep thinking the EH will stop, and I want to be proven right.

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