Triple Review: True Believers, NU: 1959 and Reign In Hell

True Believers #1

I wasn’t familiar with the writer/artist team-up – Cary Bates and Paul Gulacy – but the book was conceptually interesting, so I picked it up. 

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  That’s the tagline of the book.  Now, whether or not it truly is a time of universal deceit in the Marvel Universe is a matter of debate, but between the genetics-based Civil War and the secretive Skrull Invasion, there’s no question that there’s a whole lot of lying going on in the Marvel Universe right now.  The True Believers know that, and they want to get the truth out there, whatever the cost.

The first issue deals with an underground chick-fighting/rape/drug ring.  A young metahuman code-named Payback has gone undercover to find out who’s in charge and break the story, regardless of the cost.  With her is her ‘news team’, a group of potent metahumans with technology so far from the future it can baffle even SHIELD’s investigative prowess, she finds out who’s behind the ring, breaks it up, and then reports on it.

That part in the middle there was my main gripe with the book.  There had better be a damn good explanation forthcoming for how a group of underground journalists have the tech – and the powers – the escape SHIELD, but haven’t been noticed by anything yet, never stepped up during a war based on genetic persecution, never targeted Stark’s war-profiteering, the Illuminati, anything. 

Still, ignoring that (and a fairly ridiculous last page), the book was quite good.  The characters’ goals and operations are interesting, and underground journalism – digging into the seediest side of the Marvel Universe – makes for an interesting change of pace from the standard superhero fare.

Grade: B+

NewUniversal: 1959

I’ve never heard of Kieron Gillen, the writer.  Literally, never heard of him.  And yet, somehow, his single issue of NewUniversal, the Warren Ellis-masterminded relaunch of the failed 80’s New Universe project for Marvel Comics, has blown any single issue Ellis gave the series thus far completely out of the water.

This issue deals with America’s first recorded meeting with super-humanity.  It evokes all the paranoia towards mutants that mainstream Marvel wants to evoke – the difference, of course, is that in NewUniversal: Everything Went White and NewUniversal: 1959, it works. 

In 1959, the sky world-around was lit by something eventually titled ‘The Fireworks’.  The next day, things changed.  Drifter Lester Robbins gained the ability to instantly teleport.  Veronica Kelly, Kansas City widow, seemed to be able to read minds, and could create and control deadly blue blades.  Alcoholic slacker Tony Stark could create and understand technology decades ahead of what he should have been able to.  None of them had had these abilities before The Fireworks.

The book does not follow those metahumans, however, but instead follows rookie government agent Philip Voight, familiar to those who have read Everything Went White, but this is as good an introduction to the character as anything.  The decision to stay with him, rather than the heroes, definitely adds to the sense that super-humanity truly is a different species than traditional humanity – especially as the agents observe the relationship between Lester and Veronica, a bizarre cat-and-mouse game that appears wholly alien to the human agents.

I cannot recommend the NewUniversal line highly enough, and 1959 is an excellent place to start if you just want to try out a single issue.

Grade: A

Reign in Hell #1

 

Giffen has been billing this as a supernatural Annihilation.  Both series’ were written by him, after all.  And both deal with a previously largely-ignored but enormously important segment of each Universe’s mythology.  Rather than a series of warm-up minis leading up to a main mini, here Giffen went for a single miniseries with a selection of back-ups to set the stage.  Otherwise, it’s largely similar.

And like Annihilation, it doesn’t read well in single-issue form.  The story begins with an all-out battle in hell for a structure called The Odium, and it fills you in as you go.  Lord Satanus and Lady Blaze, currently in charge of Purgatory, are tired of a system of eternal damnation, a system with no mediums and no forgiveness – or that’s what they’re telling people – and so they’ve led all the souls of Purgatory into Hell in an attempt to retake and reshape Hell.  Opposing them is Neron, current leader of Hell.

But that is, of course, not the whole of the conflict.  What happens here will reshape how magic works all over the DC Universe, and so many of the mystic and divine heroes and villains of the DC Universe have a stake in this as well.  In this issue, we see the Shadowpact, the return of Linda Danvers (albeit a fairly out-of-character Linda Danvers), Jason Blood, The Creeper, Zauriel, and Zatanna’s dead father, Giovanni Zatara.

The back-up – easily the most entertaining part of the book – features Ralph and Sue Dibny, Ghost Detectives, in a meeting to convince Dr. Occult just how important this is.  The back-up is slow, but well-written, and is great set-up for what is to come, as well as back-story on the little-used Dr. Occult.

The issue is largely set-up, and reads like the more boring parts of Annihilation, but like Annihilation, the struggle promises to be epic.  Let’s hope Giffen can deliver, but a slow opening issue, combined with fairly average art from Tom Derenick and Bill Sienkiewicz, don’t make the best start you could hope for.

Grade: B-

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