Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Millennium #1 - "Over"

Writer: Steve Englehart
Art: Joe Staton, Ian Gibson, and Carl Gafford

After Legends, you'd think I'd want to avoid these DC crossovers, but I was actually looking forward to checking this out. Millennium has a pretty awful reputation, but I have fond memories of it for some reason.

Right off the bat, this is a lot weirder than Legends. Legends was botched in its execution, but at the concept level it had a respectable thesis and seemed to be trying to respond thematically* to the "important" super-hero comics of its era (The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, The Squadron Supreme). Millennium, on a concept level, is much farther out: the Guardians - a race of super-powerful little nerdy men - and the Zamorans - a race of super-powerful Amazonian warrior women - have decided to use the energy created by them having lots of sex to propel humanity's evolution along . But the Guardians' former servants - the mutinous Manhunter androids - want to stop them.

The series' big gimmick, of course, is that the Manhunters have infiltrated the lives of all of Earth's heroes, so, like, we find out that Flash's father and Superman's girlfriend are really Manhunters in disguise. This element of the series really seemed to piss people off. Personally, I don't mind so much, especially since it turns out that Pan (you know, this Pan) is also a Manhunter. That, to me, encapsulates the way that the super-hero genre can thrive on mixing and melding incommensurate elements.

However, I can see why the seemingly drastic revelations might have turned off long time fans.

Joe Staton's work here is very nice: he can handle all the different characters and does a good job putting them in interesting poses for the big standinging-around-in-a-room-talking scenes.

*I.e., "swiped a number of plot point from"


James said...

While I haven't read "Millennium," Steve Englehart has to be one of my least favorite comics writers of my youth.

I haven't read his mid-70's Avengers stuff, but his work on "The West Coast Avengers" and "Fantastic Four" in the mid-to-late 1980's was some of the most dire comics I can remember. As a child, I didn't recognize artists or writers, but having been suckered in with Byrne's "Fantastic Four" run, I could dimly sense that I had been terribly, terribly cheated by Englehart.

The chief features of Englehart's work appear to be a "cosmic" disturbance that despite its scale is mostly philosophical, a devotion to obscure characters, and a obsessive desire to monkey around with continuity paradoxes (usually to no effect). He strikes me as the kind of writer Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons" would revere.

What strikes me about Englehart now is how out of step he was, even by the standards of Mid-80's Marvel. Where you had Byrne trying to tell stylish science-fiction stories with a sense of emotional urgency, Peter David cranking out funny-but-downbeat Spider-Man stories, Ann Nocenti telling allegories by way of spandex crimefighters, and Chris Claremont telling a tragic soap opera... you've got Steve Englehart obsessing over whether or not Mantis really married a plant-creature 12 years ago.

I will say three kind things about Steve Englehart:

* I really liked his mid-80's "Silver Surfer" comic. Man, that was good times; I even liked Mantis.

* "Green Lantern Corps" #217 was terrific, and I really wish I had followed that series all along.

* He apparently liked Rama-Tut and Hank Pym. Both of them are under-utilized characters.

Jon Hastings said...

I like Englehart (a lot) more than you do, but I think that's a pretty accurate description of what he's all about. And I can definitely understand your preference for his "cosmic"-only comics.

I like Bryne's art, but as a writer/plotter I sometimes feel his has too literal a touch.

Jon Hastings said...

To expand on that:

Englehart comes up with this idea of the Guardians and the Zamorans using cosmic sex energy to propel human evolution forward. He takes an already existing element of the DC mythos and reveals another metaphorical/symbolic layer to it (one that anticipates this issue of Promethea).

John Byrne, on the other hand, does stuff like put Galactus on trial, which removes a layer of symbolism/metaphor by taking Jack Kirby's cosmic Yahweh and turning him into just another alien being in a sci-fi story.

James said...

Hmm: that's a very perceptive. Galactus must be a pretty tough character to write, because with each appearance he'll tend to seem less special. Although I don't remember Byrne's "Trial of Galactus," I do remember that Englehart managed to do some mystical mumbo-jumbo with him in his "Silver Surfer" run. It wasn't entirely persuasive, but Englehart at least was playing the right game.

Come to think of it, Englehart had a hand in pretty much all of 1970's Marvel, a period which I generally find unpalatable. Still, there's no denying his fingerprints are all over the Marvel Universe, probably at least as much as Roy Thomas's.