Sunday, October 19, 2008

Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct by Paul Di Filippo and Jerry Ordway

Generally with these posts, my preference is (a) to try and figure out how these comics are put together and (b) to elaborate on how my own particular p.o.v. affects my capacity to do (a). I've been trying not to talk in terms of this-or-that "working" or "not working", because, IME, those kinds of judgments require making assumptions about how a given comic should work that makes it easier to miss out when a comic is working in a way that is new to me.

But comparing Paul Di Filippo's work on this series to Alan Moore's, what sticks out is not that Di Filippo's ideas aren't as good, necessarily, but that they're a lot more safe, like he knows he's playing with someone else's toys and doesn't want to break them. Or get too attached to them, for that matter: the way the characters are written makes them feel like actors going through the paces in a sequel they're just doing for the money.

So, Di Filippo has a Moore-like overarching A plot, a Morrison-like overarching B plot, and a number of TV cop show-like subplots, but they all feel pasted on. It ends up feeling like the whole thing is badly structured - with an ending that just sort of happens and a lot of scenes that don't seem to add up - but the problem is really that the plot just happens and it isn't grounded the characters or the setting.

And I really like Jerry Ordway's work - Power of Shazam was one of the few super-hero comics I consistently* bought on a monthly basis during the 1990s - but it's never rated very highly on the "sense of humor" scale. So here, while the background jokes are dutifully executed, they're not that funny. Ordway's take on the Top Ten universe is just too literal.

And the whole thing lacks the sense of wonder that made the original Top Ten work: even when it was poking fun at super-hero comics it understood the poetry and majesty of those crazy Jack Kirby images of spandex-clad gods.

*Most of the time in the 1990s I'd follow super-hero titles in bits and pieces and buy up a whole bunch of back issues if something ended up clicking. Ordway's Shazam and James Robinson's Starman were the ones I tried to follow month-in, month-out.

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