Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Brent Peeples
Published by DC Comics
“Begone from the domain of Unearth or die!”
Source wall radiation. Source wall fragments. Emergent energies. Exotic debris. Yadda, yadda.
Seems Dan Abnett is still trying to find ways to describe the aftermath of the Source Wall disaster, here on earth. And I don’t blame him.
Given that the Source Wall is – literally – on the far edge of the Universe, the premise that somehow, as a result of its breach, our own tiny speck of a planet is somehow being absolutely inundated and over-run with weird unknown mutagenic x-factors, still feels just a touch thin to me.
But that’s the main premise of the book and the raison d’etre of our team, so it’s a necessary suspension of belief I guess.
I’ll say this for the idea: in keeping with what appears to be a new edict across the DC Bullpen to go crazy with big concepts and wild randomness… unpredictable emergent bursts of ultra-universal ‘whatever’, with completely un-guessable, omega-level consequences, certainly allows for a wide range of potential lunacy.
I was a little concerned after last month’s issue that Abnett’s take on that potential might end up being a bit pedestrian. But those fears are laid to rest with this issue, as our team responds to their newest emergent crisis, and takes a hard detour into the distinctly weird.
It’s a welcome move.
Two things Abnett does very well are concepts and characters. Those muscles fully flex with his introduction to the DC Universe, of the strange danger of Prince Travesty and the realms of Unearth.
And I do mean introduction. Because one moment they do not exist in Prime reality, and the next, they do.
That’s because they’re both the brain-child of frustrated, one-time author and RPGer, Ernest Hinton.
Unearth, as the name suggests, is a rather grim – and rather bad – example of fantasy world-building writ large. Because being bad fiction doesn’t stop it from springing to fully actualized life from Mr. Hinton’s newly exotically irradiated brain. Complete with a long history of dire directives, prophecies and violent mythological monsters.
Taking on that challenge, artist Brent Peeples steps in to pick up the slack for Brandon Peterson on this issue. Which is both good – he does faces much better than Mr. Peterson – and not so good – because Brandon’s cover is so good it puts almost everything else in the book to shame. Which itself is a shame, because Mr. Peeples takes on the job with confidence, and a clean, direct style that deserves to stand on its own.
(And why is Brandon Peterson missing in action after only one issue? Hard to say, but I’d say it’s not a great sign.)
At any rate the manifest destiny of Unearth is an excellent concept, and Prince Travesty is likewise, an excellent character. Well, he’s a well-conceived character. As the newest vehicle for grand mischief and chaos in the DCU, Travesty is the very caricature of a dark, magical elf prince – amoral, self-serving, dangerously devious and unpredictable. Because that caricature is precisely what he’s meant to be.
That doesn’t make him any less dangerous though. Not by a long shot.
The combination of interdimensional invasion and darkly fae villain allows for some enjoyable plot sequences as our newly-minted team of Titans tries to come to terms with what’s happened, and what exactly to do about it.
What they come up with, in the end, is questionable, both morally, and as it turns out, practically. The consequences of that decision are likely to be far-reaching. But the moral issue at least, is likely to get closer scrutiny pretty quick.
At the center of the debate is M’gann M’razz, aka Miss Martian. Mind you, it’s probably not fair to pin it all on her. Drastic circumstances, call for drastic actions, and M’gnn’s nothing if not competent.
Still it’s easy to do, in part because Mr. Abnett is depicting M’gnn here in this new, New 52 continuum, as both remarkable clueless, and distinctly suspect in her motivations.
The clueless part is a bit annoying frankly. I mean I get it, she’s an alien. Not conversant with the unusual ways of humans, etc., etc. But so too is J’onn, and like J’onn, the M’gnn I was first introduced to had the same heart and soul that any survivor of a proud empathically telepathic race should have at baseline. This M’gnn conversely, seems to have trouble with fundamental empathic insight and ethical judgment calls. And short words. More like Spock, than an other-worldly, green Jean Grey. So that’s weird.
Beyond this, we are clearly meant to believe that, even stranger – or less trustworthy – is her mysterious agenda as a mole in the ranks of the Titans for J’onn J’onnz. But c’mon. For all M’gnn’s stilted, off-putting mannerisms, I don’t doubt for a second that she’s really one of the good guys. Or that J’onn doesn’t have a very good reason for placing her on the team to keep an eye on things.
For that matter, I don’t doubt that Nightwing doubts that either. You can bet he knows M’gnn has a clearly defined directive. You can also bet that he knows that not just J’onn J’onnz, but Batman also, is fully aware of that directive. Heck it’s also a safe bet that he also fully understands that Batman knows that he knows that Batman knows.
All of which makes the whole drama of Dick and M’gnn, again, a touch ho-hum.
But the question remains: What is that agenda? Is M’gnn just there to watch over the team as it runs head-blind into episode after episode of wildly mutagenic potential?
Or is she there to keep an eye on one of her team-members specifically?
Given that J’onn was shown the roster upfront that’s at least a reasonable hypothesis. But then, which one?
Because it could be any of them. After all Raven is still the daughter of an all-powerful other-dimensional demon lord. Gar’s been jacked up recently with an unknown level of ultra-entropic power alteration. Donna, perhaps the most obvious choice, has already been targeted (somewhat aggressively) by the League as a extinction-level threat just waiting to happen. For that matter, seems to me that miss Natasha Irons has been pretty surprisingly juiced up lately herself.
Of course, it remains true that any one of the team may become more than a little seriously altered at any time by all this exotic irradiated Source Wall emergent weirdness they keep wading themselves into. Even Nightwing for that matter.
Or Miss Martian herself.
But then Dick seems to understand all that. So why all the fuss exactly?
As we’ve seen this issue, anything is possible. And that’s a good thing. Forging a new team can be a tricky business. But after this issue I’m prepared to believe that Dan Abnett has the course of that all well in hand.
The game’s afoot. One that will be playing out on a number of fronts I’d guess.
Right now though, we’d all better hope that Raven ups her own.
Next Issue: Someone thinks Nightwing’s pretty. But it’s not who you think.