By: Gail Simone (story), Freddie Williams II (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)
The Story: Looks like it’s raining rats out there.
The Review: Frequent commenter Tel has had some choice words for this series, mainly attacking its integrity as a series inspired by the vague ambitions of the Occupy movements. I confess that while I might have shared similar sentiments about the protests, as a critic I couldn’t exactly use that to pre-judge a work of fiction now, could I? But at this point, I think I can safely tell Tel, you probably have a point there.
Although Katharsis may not be the best character to make an example of—she is pretty psychotic after all, even in a whole gang of folks who seem like escapees from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—her opening monologue seems to capture the Occupy essence pretty well: striving heartily to make some kind of point, but couched in such generalities as to be utterly meaningless and thus impotent: “You have your little mowed lawn, and that represents your power, you security. But that security is predicated on fear.” And that gibberish is predicated on nonsense. Sometimes a mowed lawn just represents a love for greenery.*
A lot of the issue is like this: hot air and no fire. Simone really wants the Movement to seem subversive and radical, but to what end? To create the most cheerful and lawless refugee camp in Coral City? Officer Whitt may be referring to a no longer recognized regime when he complains about his and his partner’s treatment (“…locked up, no date for a trial, no counsel, no communication with our families…”), but he does point out the lack of order inherent in a system that has no clear goals. At this point, you still have no idea the connection between the Movement as a movement and the Movement as a team of wannabe vigilantes.*
The same lack of substance infects the character work on this series as well. While there are flickers of genuine personality here, they are buried beneath a lot of weirdness for its own sake. Unlike the Secret Six, who were all complicated to begin with and became even more complex as time went on, like a fine wine, the members of the Movement are more like grape juice: one-dimensional and easily processed. For example, Mouse seems to be a one-premise character whose gimmick has already gotten old (traumatized over the loss of another pet rat, he cries, “But he’s my favorite! I taught him to ride a unicycle.”). Now, Burden, with the friction between his religious hang-ups and his demonic powers, has potential to develop into a true Simonian character. As he stares at the natural disaster sprung by Rainmaker, he thinks, “Dearest Momma, honored Poppa. I am so sorry. You were right about unmarried women.”
Overall, it’s clear that this series desperately wants to be taken seriously as a dark horse in the DCU, but for that, it needs to stop falling back on generic superhero conventions. The whole battle with Rainmaker turns out to be completely pointless, one of those misunderstandings that happen too often in comics. As for our villains, they range from the comically exaggerated, like the haughty Cannon, to the comically silly, like the Cornea Killer, who summons a portable raincloud upon his victims before killing them.
Williams, like many artists using the cartoony DC house art style, really prospers the more space he’s given. His splash pages definitely look cleaner, more dynamic, and better proportioned than anything he draws in a panel. The characters seem to grow squatter and chubbier the smaller the panel gets, as if they’re actually trying to squeeze themselves into the smaller space. At any rate, even at his very best, Williams’ work is undeniably cheesy and a bit sloppy, the open-faced sandwich of comic book art.
Conclusion: The issue strives to grab my attention, and yet most of the time I find my attention wandering elsewhere—not unlike my reaction to Occupy.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * And I say this as a person who hates mowing his lawn. But I don’t think that represents my powerlessness or insecurity—or does it?
* Probably the core of Simone’s problem on this title is she hasn’t totally made a good case for the Movement’s existence just yet. Thus far, we’ve seen two bad cops and a corrupt businessman, but this doesn’t quite justify the secession of an entire city neighborhood.
– Vengeance Moth reacts a bit stridently to Officer Whitt asking if she’s the one who set up the technological infrastructure to the building: “Because everyone in a wheelchair is automatically Stephen Hawking, right?” I’m pretty sure that’s not a stereotype, V.M.