This is sort of a hard comic to review. As usual, Grant Morrison is biting off a huge task in his comic book work. This one issue has to set up a parallel Earth, complete with alternate history. It needs to establish a new world of super-heroes and villains. It needs to tie into the greater threat of the Gentry from Multiversity #1.
Heck, in addition to all of that set-up, we also need an actual story, complete with rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Morrison ALMOST pulls it off. The problem is, as near as I can tell, the story just abruptly stops in the middle of what I’d call the climax.
The Society of Super-Heroes, or S.O.S is a pretty easy to like group. Led by the enigmatic Doc Fate (sort of magic-powered pulp version), the Iron Munro-trained Atom, a very alien Abin Sur, a squad of Lady Blackhawks, and a fascinating Anthro the Immortal Man, the group covers a lot of bases. Abin Sur’s Green Lantern is pretty dang powerful, but the rest of the folks seem pretty grounded in pulp sensibility.
Doc Fate gets a lot of dialogue, but Anthro seems to anchor the story a bit more. I was immediately interested in the Immortal Man’s long-view perspective and outlook. When he gives a piece of jewelry to one of the Blackhawks, he states he’ll just go get it back after its current home crumbles. That’s a long view!
The villains are ostensibly working for the Gentry, the main villains in the Multiversity series. Fate describes the situation involving Nix Uotan and the Gentry pretty well, although I’m never quite sure if the main story involves those weird creatures or not. Felix Faust is powered by their dark energies, but Vandal Savage, Parallax, Lady Shiva, and Blockbuster all seem to be motivated by their normal desires. At one point, Vandal Savage declares his desire to be pirates invading other Earths, “Prepare to board!”
Like everyone else, it is hard not to comment on the similarities between the invading parallel Earths in this story and the ongoing, multi-year marathon that Jonathan Hickman is writing over in Avengers. I certainly hope that this story runs a lot faster, though. I can’t stand the idea of waiting 5 years to see this one resolved too. As long as the story inches forward in each of these one-shots, I'm not going to complain too much.
In a story like this, with relatively few pages to establish an entire universe and continuity, there is a heavy burden on the art. Chris Sprouse is up to the task. The WWII-era pulp setting is clearly established from page 1 forward. The architecture, vehicles, and even the tone of the action (established in script, of course) sell the alternate reality. Sprouse’s character designs are great. The almost formal look to many of the characters (including Atom and Sinestro!) lends dated feeling to the proceedings that enhances the alternate universe concept.
$4.99. Dang. I didn’t even notice that at the shop. The book is 40 pages, so I just need to remember that this would have been a “prestige bookshelf” book back in the day. It is certainly GOOD enough content to justify the price.