Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: Danger Club #8

Last week, Danger Club #8 came out ... twice ... ending this great mini-series, written by Landry Walker with art by Eric Jones. Now I have sung the praises of this book on the blog before so, no big surprise, I really love this finale. 

As I have said before, this is a complex book which can be read on so many levels. You can enjoy the surface story, seeing these sidekicks suddenly thrust alone into a Crisis-style disaster and scrambling to save the universe. And, on that level, with a brilliant Kid Vigilante, a miniaturized Tokyo, a mad Captain America analog rewriting time, it completely works.

But for me, the more fascinating layer has been looking at this book as a discussion on comic book continuity in general. How universal rewrites can warp the intent of characters, leading to disastrous interpretations, and eventually overall instability. From the golden/silver age opening pages to the Image-esque splash page to the near unrecognizable brutality of the current line, this book has walked us through comic history. Brilliant.

This issue is a mostly a big-scale brawl against the villain Chronos but it ends with another universal rewrite. That reminded me of Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 in which the bulk of that issue was a fight with the Anti-Monitor but ended with the DCU being finally streamlined.

One of my favorite parts of this whole series has been these opening retro-pages. These have been reflections of prior times in comics but also echoes of the prior timelines in this Danger Club universe. This is the way things used to be before the American Spirit/Chronos wrote and rewrote and rewrote the timelines.

This issue looks like a Lee/Kirby era book. The heroes poses, the title 'Lo, the end is Nigh!', the Romita-style Jack Fearless in the lower half feels like an old school Marvel book.

But it still shows us the big event of the story ... the older heroes being betrayed and disappearing leaving the sidekicks to try to survive.

 Last issue was the third issue in a row in which the universe winked out of existence and seemed to be reformed. Kid Vigilante is in Olympus begging for the elder gods to lend their power.  The Magician, existing outside of time, finally cast the Apocatastasis spell, looking at all the timelines and choosing one.

Most interesting, the Magician picked the main timeline of this book, the brutal era we have seen these sidekicks exist in. But it is his timeline, his home.

And Chronos is suddenly back on the timeline he destroyed two issues back.

With little time, a dying Jack Fearless, Ladybug, and the rest of the team on Earth engage.

Meanwhile, back in Olympus, Kid Vigilante continues to plead his case. The Gods know what Chronos means, what will happen if Chronos succeeds. He needs their power ... even rival Apollo's.

There is something very classic about this, the Greek pantheon fighting Chronos. And I love Jones' interpretation of Artemis, Hermes, Hephaestus, Ares, Aphrodite, and Athena.

On Earth, all the pieces of Kid Vigilante's plan start to come together.

Jack Fearless, his power at critical levels, activates a flying fortress powered by the Omphalos stone, a weapon mentioned in a prior flashback page and known to be effective against the gods. He teleports Ladybug to safety flies towards Chronos.

Meanwhile, the Magician begins downloading Kid Vigilante's memories into the body of his twin brother. Vigilante is only able to talk to the gods because he is dead, his brains shot out a few issues ago. He needs a place to come back to.

And finally, he does, animating his brother's body, fueled by the essence of the gods.

Talk about a crazy plan!

The risks are incredible ....

Fearless does his job, going on a suicide run with the Omphalos-ship, skewering Chronos with its power.

And then, right behind, is Vigilante, flying with the avatars of the gods, and flying through Chronos and killing the mad titan.

Dying, all the divine creative energy that Chronos had stolen is released into the universe. The stars realign. There is rebirth to this world.

Now throughout this title, we have had homages and callbacks to key events and eras in comics.

There is no doubt that this page of the older generation of heroes returning is a take on Kingdom Come. Brilliant!

Many of us know that Kingdom Come was a warning to comics about the direction comics were going in that time, of things getting more brutal and insane. Instead of recognizing it as a warning, DC looked at it as a recipe to make things even grimmer.

So what will happen here.

Now think of what Kid Vigilante has just done.

Recognized the universal threat. Concocted a plan to defeat him. A plan that hinged on his getting killed and convincing divine beings to resurrect him and empower him. A plan that involved killing a mad god. And then had to have the dying mad god's energy lead to a cosmic rebirth.

So what does his suddenly alive father, the 'Batman' of this universe say to him?

'Acceptable.' And then he walks away!

Kid Vigilante, dripping blood, looking like a revenant, looks floored.

I was floored.

This is comics these days. 'Batman' so aloof and infallible that this miracle is only 'acceptable'. This was a gut punch, the ending that I deserve as a reader who has been a willing participant in the slow devolution of many comics and characters.

The new universe is the old universe, the blood soaked reality seen in the first issue.

These sidekicks can never be children again.

This should be a glorious victory, one that makes the characters (and me) exhilarated and happy.

But I am far from it.

But wait ... there's more!

Walker and Jones knew this book was too big to be saddled with just one ending.

And so they came out with a second ending, a second Danger Club #8, with a similar but more tattered appearing cover. This is what my comics used to look like before I slavishly bagged and boarded them, creased, rolled, and readable anywhere.

The bulk of the story mirrors the other issue. Except now, the death of Chronos leads to his temporal energy being released and recreating all the universes, all the timelines that the American Spirit had destroyed.

Now we get a much more Silver Age ending, Vigilante gets thanked as he should. This time he is told that he did a good job. And he is called 'son'. They shake hands. Suddenly, there is a world where these characters can be heroes again.

Look at the smiling Kid Vigilante here. His mask isn't one from his own blood streaming from his eyes.

Now there is once again a multiverse where everyone can live.

I needed this second ending. But I deserve the first.

I really love this book. It pains me to think that it was lost on the shelves, harmed by a delay in the middle. Because it is such a meaty read. It is brilliant.

I can only hope that a trade comes out with the entire series. And I would love some foreword or back matter by the team explaining their hopes and ideas of the series. We need books like this out there, commentary on comics.

So which ending did you prefer??

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I have read your tweets about this but I haven't read the series. I hope it comes out in trade. Otherwise I'll hunt down single issues.

Robert W. said...

Superb analysis and commentary on this series. It makes me appreciate it on the level it was meant for. Having been a comic reader for close to 40 years, your "willing participant" and "what my comics used to look like" comments sting a bit, but are dead on and unshakable. I fell away from Marvel and DC decades ago, and thankfully alternatives and indies still thrive, and we can get excellent stories like Danger Club.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment. I thought this series was brilliant. So glad to hear from other fans !