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They rise above this, they cry about this: Diana is let down by 11/19

Brian Hibbs

Better late than never? When it comes to WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #12, I would’ve preferred NEVER.

Gail Simone seems seriously off her game lately. Between this AWFUL series finale, WONDER WOMAN, ALL-NEW ATOM and GEN13, a trend has started to emerge where Simone throws a bunch of random events and character beats together in the hopes that they’ll gel, and they rarely do. Her comics, of late, read like Grant Morrison-lite in that Morrison tends to use the same shtick, tossing out all these weird ideas that don’t seem to go anywhere… but with Morrison, the payoff is (usually) worth the confusion. I don’t feel that way about WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the high concept of superheroes and supervillains living together in a retirement community. In fact, that and Simone’s knack for humorous wit got me interested in the series from the very beginning. But she didn’t quite pull it off here: twelve issues in, you’ve got about ninety cast members running around, none of whom are even remotely fleshed-out in terms of characterization, and whatever humor Simone sees fit to inject comes off rather weakly.

On top of that, the storylines deteriorated into half-crossover half-Biblical mush, with all these pastiches being sewn in from seemingly random places (where the hell did that Cowboy Punisher come from?). If I make like Masi Oka and squint until I go blind, I can just about see what Simone was trying to do – Tranquility is a sort of nexus for characters from all comic book genres, which means you could tell pretty much any story you want. But the groundwork just isn’t there. And even though WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY was cancelled rather quickly, and I do take that into account when evaluating what was done here, the painful truth is that this book was losing readers long before the axe fell. And I can only attribute that to the lack of a hook, and this, I think, is where Simone’s quasi-Morrisonian emulation falls short. Morrison is a thoroughly weird writer, but his best work had, at its core, human (or human-ish) characters you could care about. Simone’s no stranger to this principle – it defined her run on BIRDS OF PREY and DEADPOOL/AGENT X before that, and GEN13 more recently – and yet we have books like TRANQUILITY and THE ATOM which just don’t allow for any real emotional center. Failing that, you’d have to have a pretty intriguing plot/premise to keep people coming back, and while WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY falls firmly into the “cute” category, that’s just not enough in the long run.

P.S. Unless Blogspot lies, this was the Savage Critics’ 1,000th post! Happy millenium, guys! Here’s to another 1,000 comics savaged!

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