Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday Comics: National Comics #1

DC already has an anthology comic in DC Universe Presents. That title has been hit and miss because the characters and production crew change every few issues. National Comics is attempting the same thing except instead of 3-5 issue stories, they will all be single issues, each with a new artist/writer team.

This will be a hard series to critique since each issue will be a stand alone. So I decided just to focus on the self contained story in issue one: “Eternity.” This re-introduced the character Kid Eternity to the New DCU, this time dropping the juvinle “Kid” part to his name. The old Kid Eternity had the power to bring to life people from either history or fiction (depending on who was writing comic book at the time) to help him in his quest for justice. The pre DC relaunch version focused on bringing back people from the dead to fight for him.

The new Eternity runs with the “raising dead” version and twists it a bit. In this version, he and his father were victims of a drive-by shooting. His father died but Eternity returned to the land of the living and eventually found a job in the police morgue. He found that if he touched a dead, he could bring the ghost back for a very short period of time before they returned to the afterlife. Unlike the previous version, this time only Eternity can see and hear the person he raises. But he uses the ghost to guide him so he can solve the mystery of their murder before time runs out.

The first issue revolves around Eternity raising the spirit of a shop owner who is the victim of a shooting. The story hits the usual tropes about how Eternity's been “acting strange” and is “talking to himself.” But what turns out to be a by the numbers murder investigation takes a very interesting turn that I do not want to spoil. The story also hints at a larger mythology in which Eternity has a larger part to play than simply solving murder cases.

Writer Jeff Lemire has been lauded in the past few years in the comics industry. I have heard good things about Sweet Tooth, though I have never read it. His most celebrated work, Essex County, is an expansive graphic novel that I honestly found a bit dull. But I think that his run on Superboy was just getting somewhere when the relaunch cut it short. In the new 52, I admired his work on Animal Man and Frankenstein, but they didn't grab me.

Hence, I was so pleasently surprised by National Comics #1. Lemire brought a fresh take on an often under utilized character. The main problem with him in the past has been that he was someone who essentially called on other, more heroic people to do his fighting for him. Now, he has to be the active one working on the direction of the powerless. Thematically, Lemire does an excellent job of playing with the ideas of what life and death and time and eternity mean all in the space of a 22-page comic. Eternity helps other people with their unfinished buisness, but there is no one to help him with his. He is a ghost of a man among the living. And Lemire also ends the story on a cliffhanger that had me wanting more. Artist Cully Hamner sets the mood and tone of the book without being too distracting from the story.

I don't know if the other stories by the upcoming writer/artist teams will be as good, but I highly recommend National Comics #1  

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