Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

19 December 2008

New Warriors, v. 1: Reality Check

Collects: New Warriors #1-6 (2005-6)

Released: February 2006 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color / $15.99 / ISBN: 9780785116615

What is this?: The New Warriors team reunites for a reality show.

The culprits: Writer Zeb Wells and artist Skottie Young

In between the time the New Warriors were introduced as an interesting and respected part of the Marvel Universe in 1990 and their ultimate demise as a plot point to start a Bendis-over24 in 2006, the team had two series. One was an eleven-issue relaunch in ’99, which was a failure. The other was a six-issue limited series, collected in New Warriors: Reality Check.

New Warriors: Reality Check coverThe failed second volume of the title has obviously had an effect on the team’s profile. They are now a joke — their old members (save Firestar and Justice) are slackers and underachievers, and when their leader, Night Thrasher, convinces them to reunite for a reality show, they add an even bigger loser to the team: Microbe is fat, smelly, socially awkward, and talks to microorganisms. If you revere the old days of the New Warriors, this is not for you.

On its own merits, though, it’s relatively entertaining, and there’s no false advertising involved: when you see artist Skottie Young’s exaggerated, cartoony style, you know it’s not going to be played straight. I do not enjoy Young’s work — I feel it makes familiar characters like Night Thrasher look hideously deformed — but there’s no doubt he’s the right man for the job. His work fits the tone of the book, and it tells the story.

Writer Zeb Wells does a good job also. I’m always fond of writers who can use the Marvel Universe to tell their stories, and that’s what Wells does here. He pulls in Armadillo, Tiger Shark, the Super Apes, the Corruptor, and the Mad Thinker’s robots to tell his story of a sad little team trying to improve their profile while being heroes. The Super Apes story (issue #2) turns out to be the best of the lot, with the New Warriors dealing with an animal-rights watcher and supervillains at the same time. Most of the stories are at least mildly amusing while treating the villains with respect.

The concept for the miniseries, a reality show around heroes … I don’t know. It was inevitable that someone in comics was going to crossbreed reality shows and superheroes, because it’s such an obvious idea. But it’s such an obvious idea because reality shows have been relentlessly mocked and parodied — rightly so, but the idea has to run out of steam sooner or later. I also think more could have been done with the reality show concept — wasting half an issue explaining the team to network executives in issue #3 seems a mistake (and is filled with easy jokes, although from what I’ve heard, anyone who’s worked with studio executives may have a hard time avoiding those jokes). The reality show concept seems mainly an excuse for them to roam from town to town and to make jokes about how the cameramen didn’t catch something.

I’m also not sure about the choice to make the New Warriors into losers trying to remake themselves into A-list heroes. This doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, tearing the team down before you can build them up. In fact, the only Warrior Wells seems to be able to rehabilitate is the fat, stinky Microbe, which is a bit of a waste, given … well, Civil War. There’s not much growth of the other characters, and the fight with the Corruptor that ends the series seems like a pat way for the team to realize they’re not a very good team.

Reality Check is the opposite of the chocolate-coated pill. It’s the outside, the concept, that makes it hard to swallow, but when you get past that, the inside is actually pretty sweet and fun.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Half Marvel symbol (3.5 of 5)

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