The Gold Standard #42

Im back!

I'm back!

Remember a few years ago when Nightwing was coming off of a huge downswing thanks to the unmentionable Bruce Jones run, and then Marv Wolfman’s far less than spectacular return to the book. This was during the period where Dick Grayson was almost entirely in character limbo, despite having his own book, due to the fact that he was supposed to have died in Infinite Crisis. The book was completely tanking on a quality level, and even when it was good, it was pretty unreadable. There was just no reason to care anymore, and the character was falling flat. The book might as well have just gotten the axe, because even though it was selling, it just wasn’t really any good. And then things changed.

If you’ve read me before, then chances are you know that I’m a huge fan of the awesome “Classy” Peter Tomasi. Great great great writer, his changing roles from editor to writer will go down, in my opinion, as the best turn his career could take. He’s absolutely brilliant in the fact that everything he touches he turns into gold. This was proven when he took on Nightwing during the books weakest point.

Nightwing during RIP

Nightwing during RIP

The end result? Fourteen of the best characterized issues of Dick Grayson’s career. He gave Dick a new homebase, a new job, a new supporting cast, and a new purpose. Not unlike when Chuck Dixon did all those years ago in Nightwing #1. But the thing is, Tomasi got it. He got Dick Grayson. He gave him a distinct voice and characterization that turned the “Is this still being published?” title into one of the best books in the entire Bat line.

But hey, despite that I just rambled on Nightwing, this column isn’t about Dick Grayson. Not at all.

It’s about “Classy” Peter Tomasi, Mark Waid, The Mighty, and Irredeemable.

Heard of those books? They’re superhero books, one by DC, and one by Boom Studios, and neither is your standard super hero fare.

Actually, let’s add to this. It’s all about Garth Ennis and….The Boys.

Lately I’ve been finding myself more and more attracted to non-traditional super hero comics, so the idea of the heroes not being the upstanding moral fibers that they are in Marvel or DC is getting appealing. It’s a welcome change of pace every so often and those three books have grown into guilty pleasures.

The Mighty is being published by DC and will be ending in a few months with issue number twelve. This is an incredibly unfortunate state of events as the quality of the book was rapidly increasing as the story deepened. It’s about a world with a single superhero, Alpha One. Alpha is essentially superman in terms of powers and abilities, and as you are initially led to assume, morals. As the book unfolds we are given glimpses of his true nature to see that the world’s mightiest hero is not exactly what we’d expect.

The true star of the book, however, is Gabriel Cole. Cole starts as the second in command at Section Omega, which is essentially the clean up crew for Alpha One. But when her superior officer dies, he has to step up and become the number one guy. Complete with a big A tattooed into his hand. This releases Cole to a world of deep dark secrets and all kinds of messed up crap, that winds up taking far more from the man than he ever expected. But how could he have not taken the job? When he was a kid, he was in a car crash that killed his parents and Alpha One saved him! Alpha One! How could he not be A1’s #1 guy?

There’s a lot to say about this book, but I swear, the more I try and tell you guys about it, the more I stop myself and go “Wait a second, if I say this, then why would they want to read it?”

So the reality is that you should all check it out. Whether you skim an issue in a LCS, or maybe buy some back issues, or, heck, get the trades when they come out! It’s a fun book, and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s been a fun read.

Kinda like something else I read at DC earlier this decade….this is going to be a mild tangent, but anyway, when I got back into comics in high school I picked up this mini series DC put out called Empire. Empire was by the unbelievably awesome creative team of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, and it showed us a world where the one main super villain, Golgoth, went ahead and just took over the world. By force. Yes, that’s right, it’s a “The super villain dominates” story, but without the usual and tired “Hero saves the day at the last second” mentality that you’d expect. There’s twists and turns all throughout the story, but rather than give Golgoth a heroic foil to characterize off of, Waid found other ways to humanize the world conquering mass murderer. He was able to contrast him with his Ministers and his daughter, and through flashbacks, his wife. In just six issues (and a zero issue…so seven issues….bite me) we were given a cast of characters and had them fleshed out for us. Even the “nice” characters were pretty bad, and it was a cool touch. These aren’t people doing bad things for the right reasons, or good people doing bad things. These are just bad people, and they do bad things, and they all have their own individual reasons for everything they do.

It’s in trade, read it, it’s cheap. It doesn’t seem like it has an ending, admittedly, but it never felt like it was supposed to only be a mini series either.

But to stay on this Mark Waid kick, let’s talk about Irredeemable, his new super hero book over at Boom. I came across the first seven issues of this book the other day, and while I expected to just skim through one or two and pass a judgment, I instead found myself reading the entirety in one sitting and wishing for more. It features a Superman archetype named The Plutonian who, through a combination of events that unfold through flashbacks, becomes the world’s most dangerous villain. Killing former enemies and allies alike, even going as far as to wipe an entire country off the map because they lied to him. A country.

So the book is the journey of the other heroes as they try to stop the Plutonian, but it’s not as if any of them are on his level in terms of power. It’s a cool book, I mean, the world is crumbling around everyone as this one amazing hero has fallen far from grace, as they battle with what little they have left to stop him just in hopes of living to see tomorrow.

Now what can be said about The Boys? DC couldn’t keep publishing it because of how hard the piss is being taken on their bread and butter; super heroics. A world where a company owns the SPB’s, they market, they license, they put out comics about their SPB’s and….well, everyone is a bunch of fucking assholes. And there’s never any real attempt to hide it from the reader, I mean, the wool is over the eyes of the normal people, hell, over the eyes of some of the powers, but the reality of it is that the powers are corrupt.

So when the heroes start getting out of line, what do you do? You send in The Boys. A group of people who have been given powers for the lone reason of keeping the ‘heroes’ in line. Beat them up, scare them, kill them if you have to. Put them in their place. It’s a good group too, everyone gets enough page time that you give enough of a shit, though outside of Butcher and Hughie the others are relatively vanilla. You can pretty much always tell who is talking by speech patterns, but yeah.

It’s not for everyone though, I mean, the book features all kinds of fucked up stuff. From a super heroine being forced to blow an entire team to get entry, to a super hero running around with a gerbil up his ass, to The Love Sausage! It’s just….it’s a fun book. If you like Ennis going over the top, it’s a very fun book.

And just because I like this upside down takes on super heroes doesn’t mean I have any less love for the spandex crowd. Actually, if anything, reading this books helps build my appreciation.

Have a good one guys!

The Gold Standard

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