Trouble with Comics

The New Extreme: Supreme #64

As I seem to be dropping a fair amount of Marvel books, and have dropped most of DC’s New 52 titles, I find that in the past few months I’ve gotten into a line of books from Image I wasn’t looking forward to and never thought I’d be enjoying: the relaunch of many of Rob Liefeld’s various Extreme books. Now, I like some better than others, and one not much at all, but for now let’s look at Supreme.

Although Prophet, Bloodstrike, Glory and Youngblood all continued their old ’90s numbering, they’re mostly fresh takes on those characters, or at least new teams picking up the pieces. Supreme is the only title to relaunch with its last writer, Alan Moore, as new writer Erik Larsen thought it would be fair and smart to use Moore’s final, unpublished script to bridge the gap between that run and what Larsen wanted to do on his run. It was a nice idea, as was the decision to publish a variant that matched up with the old logo and cover designs. 

Moore was setting up an assault of The Citadel Supreme in issue #63, where all the various Supremes in the Multiverse hang out, by all the variations of villain Darius Dax. Larsen continues with that idea here, although what seems like a slam-dunk (lots of action and the simple fannish appeal of drawing tons of different takes on the same hero and villain) feels kind of uninspired here, with lots of corny lines and so many characters it’s treated as expected that we know and understand the relationships between Ethan and Diana and Suprema and the like. 

The art, by Larsen and Cory Hamscher, looks a lot like the Larsen art I remember but more rushed, like a 24 hour comic. It lacks the texture and Kirbyesque dynamism I associate with his style, and I’m not sure if it has to do with Hamsher or not. Does Hamscher do the layouts and Larsen finishes? Don’t know, but it’s just an adequate teaming.

In the Afterword, after several paragraphs defending himself for being one of those guys who has to follow another guy’s celebrated run, Larsen explains that his goal here is to marry Moore’s Silver Age homage with the meaner, more violent take on the character as originally conceived by Liefeld. And so, the Mean Supreme is unchained and let loose on the Dax Army (I laughed when one of the Supremes can hardly comprehend that the Daxes would unite against the united Supremes—what else are they going to do?!), with bloody results. It’s okay, and I guess it’s sort of amusing that Larsen draws this Supreme in more of a Jim Lee style, but if, as it seems to be at the end, this Supreme is going to be the new Big Bad that the other Supremes have to stop, well, I honestly think I get enough of that story in Mark Waid’s Irredeemable. I didn’t dislike the issue, but unless Larsen does something really good with this new direction next issue, I’ll be dropping this one.

Christopher Allen 

Prophet #21

Writer - Brandon Graham

Artist - Simon Roy

Publisher - Image Comics/Extreme. $3.99

I’m old enough to remember the two months that Rob Liefeld’s Prophet was relevant. Without doing any research (both laziness and in support of not supporting SOPA/PIPA), I think it was about issue #7 or 8, when the original creative team abandoned the book to a flash-in-the-pan artist, Stephen Platt, who had some major flaws but had an appealing style that was kind of a more compact Todd McFarlane. I went along with the crowd and got the book without having to pay much more than cover price, liked the art but not the story, and then waited for the next issue, which I think took over a month to arrive, and when it did, I don’t think Platt did all the work. And before too long, he was gone on to other things, and really has had very little comics work since. The series apparently made it to issue #20, but not many people really cared by that time (though in today’s numbers, it probably would be a big hit).

Say what you want about Liefeld, but he’s not an idiot, and he’s always been one to pay others to pump some life into his failing, failed or forgotten creations, be it Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Kurt Busiek, and so on. This time it’s Brandon (King City) Graham, writing, joined by Simon (Jan’s Atomic Heart) Roy on art. 

Is the book any good? Yes, and the good news is that one need not have any prior knowledge of time-lost super soldier John Prophet, and it probably helps if you don’t. Numbering aside, this is written like a first issue, and I give Liefeld and editor Eric Stephenson credit for letting Graham do what he wants here, which is to thrust Prophet into a weird world of multi-jawed monsters to kill and consume and other natives who want to kill, fuck, parley or perform surgery on him. It’s a dense issue, and Roy and colorist John Ballermann are up to the task of creating this strange, savage world. 

I’ve already seen folks calling the book brilliant, but I think we may want to pump the brakes a bit there. Graham does have a unique vision and bless him for wanting to cram a lot into the issue, but he does overload the reader a bit with all the alien names, and with an omniscient narration that actually feels kind of lazy to me. I’d prefer to find more of this out through dialogue between Prophet and the creatures he meets, as well as having Prophet make observations in his own voice, so we can get to know him better. 

Reading this issue, as well as seeing the news that Joe Casey and Nathan Fox are the new creative team on other Image series, Haunt, makes me a little bummed that talented creators like these are still being convinced to expend their energies trying to prop up or revived crappy comics somebody else owns, but hey, it’s their call to make. If someone’s going to do work-for-hire, as a consumer I still want them to put their best effort into it, and although this first issue has some flaws, it’s clear Graham and Roy are invested in the work and there’s some good potential here.

Christopher Allen