Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Review - The Mighty Vol. 1

The Mighty Vol. 1
By Peter J. Tomasi, Keith Champagne, and Peter Snejbjerg
Published by DC; $17.99 US
Collects The Mighty #s 1-6

I was genuinely at a loss to explain why I enjoyed the first volume of The Mighty as much as I did. The main character is Gabriel Cole, the newly appointed head of Section Omega; an agency tasked with supporting the world’s only superhero, Alpha One. Cole is made head of Section Omega after his predecessor Michael Shaw is murdered. He’s chosen in part because of his claim to fame – being saved by Alpha One from the same car crash that killed his parents. He’s reluctant at first to accept the job, in part because of its high mortality rate and in part because of his wife Janet’s concerns, but eventually Alpha One wins Cole over. Slowly but surely Alpha One proves himself to be less pure than he appears. The first definite proof we get that he’s at least part asshole is when he tries to get horizontal with Cole’s wife. But soon we learn that for many years Alpha One has been secretly covering up dark acts that put adultery to shame, in pursuit of an unseen goal.

I was confused about why I liked The Mighty because if you were to describe the plot to me before I read it, I would assume it was something very ho-hum trying to pass itself off as innovation. At this point nothing about The Mighty that sounds new is new. More realistic Superman clones, law enforcement agencies dedicated to superhero activity, superheroes letting their power and skewed perspective drive them bonkers, superheroes “going bad,” superheroes as they would “really” be, or a world that reacts to super-people like we react to real life celebrities; none of these things are particularly novel anymore.

Part of it, honestly, is that I went in blind. I recall hearing about The Mighty when the series was first out in floppies, but I didn’t know anything specific about the plot. I knew it had something to do with a superhero, that readers were disappointed when it was eventually canceled (which seems strange only because it doesn’t seem like a series that would lend itself to an ongoing format), and that it was being heralded as one those Great Series You Aren’t Reading. I’m always much happier with a good series when I know next-to-nothing going in (which may make it seem kind of hypocritical for me to spend so much time writing reviews and making sure other people don’t get to go in blind).

But I also think Peter Tomasi just tells a damn fine story and The Mighty has convinced me to track down some of his other work. Anyone who has read or watched a murder mystery will suspect as early as the first chapter that Alpha One is up to no good. The death scene of Michael Shaw (Gabriel Cole’s predecessor) drops a hint so glaring you wonder how Cole could ever have trusted Alpha One. Still, I found myself questioning whether my suspicions were correct and – in spite of the fact that there wouldn’t be a very interesting story to tell in that case – hoping that they weren’t. Even when he tried to get into Janet’s pants, I found myself thinking that that didn’t necessarily mean my other fears about Alpha One were correct. And even once I started to see the scope of Alpha One’s crimes, while he seemed dangerous and unstable, he never seemed fake. I never questioned the sincerity of the character’s gentlemanly, patient demeanor and his noble intentions earlier in the story. Alpha One is convincingly human in his inhumanity. We don’t find out exactly what he’s up to in this first volume, but Tomasi does a good job of persuading us that – whatever Alpha One’s goals are – he believes he’s doing it for the greater good regardless of his means.

I have to confess to just a little disappointment with this first volume’s ending, though I don’t necessarily lay that at the storytellers’ doorsteps. I didn’t realize there was a second volume, expected the story to be wrapped up by the sixth chapter of this one, and so it couldn’t help but feel anticlimactic. I also think it’s clear Tomasi wasn’t writing For The Trade, and it’s tough to fault him for that.

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