Still preoccupied with... 1985 #2-4
Story by Mark Millar
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards
Lettered by John Workman
When we last looked in on Toby, he had just discovered that the creepy old Wyncham house in his neighborhood had been taken over by Marvel supervillains. Unfortunately, his friends and neighbors didn't believe him - though they'll probably have to change that opinion now that the villains have started slaughtering the townsfolk en masse. So Toby breaks into the Wyncham house to find help in the only place he can think of - the Marvel Universe.
Though issue #1 showed a lot of promise, issues #2-4 are pretty blah stuff. They're just very poorly placed - filled with supervillains causing mass carnage for no apparent reason, killing townfolk you have no emotional attachment to, and being thwarted by some stock characters you have no real reason to root for. A misfire on just about every level. At least it's finally apparent why this series is set in 1985 - it's the period where comics started experimenting with "gritty realism." I'm guessing the lesson Millar wants us to take from 1985 is that mixing the real world with your comics destroys them - that it leads to a world where the Blob eats soldiers while Sauron pecks their eyes, a world that's inappropriate for children and that any sane adult wouldn't waste his time on. Which is certainly a valid point of view but it's sort of funny to have it conveyed by Mark "I was sodomized by a Captain America pastiche" Millar.
And, as I mentioned before, it's not even competently plotted. There's no real characterization or depth, and there's only one mystery worth exploring - who is repsonsible for dragging Marvel characters into the real world? Toby is probably out. If he were the "master" of these villains they'd beating up his step-father and his teachers instead of random strangers. The Toby narrating the story clearly wants you to believe that the culprit is his father - he even refers to him as "the first mutant this world has ever known" and inserts an flashback that seems to back up this point of view. But this seems a bit too obvious - and that flashback is really ambiguous. If Toby's dad could subconsciously lash out at the people who've hurt him, he would have probably started a lot sooner, and it's not clear why he'd be subconsciously lashing out at everyone in town either. No, the #1 suspect is undoubtedly poor, brain-damaged Clyde Wyncham. The first people killed are his nurse and her boyfriend. In a flashback, his dead father is resurrected - why would Toby's dad resurrect Clyde's father? No, whatever fried Clyde's brain in the first place has undoubtedly stopped him from controlling his raging powers and things are finally hitting the boiling point.
At least there's Tommy Lee Edwards' beautiful art. Check out this wonderful sequence from issue #2...
Stilt Man wandering through a half-lit, shadowy suburban environment has never looked so beautiful. Edward walks a deft tightrope here - Stilt Man is as carefully delineated as everything else on the page, yet retains aan otherworldly feel - there's still the potential that he's some fleeting phantasm, a beautiful fantasy for children rather than a murderous psychopath. The coloring is especially fantastic, evoking the hazy, muted colors of sunst in a way that you rarely see in a Marvel comic.
So it's a pity that Edwards may not turn out to be the right artist for this project at all.
Don't get me wrong. I like his depictions of the real world, and his depictions of the fantasy world are both wonderful and frightening at the same time. But the real problem is the sequence at the end of issue #4, where Toby wanders into the Marvel Universe. There's an attempt to make the MU look different from the regular world by cutting down on the hatching and shadowing, and using a sunnier palette. But the attempt fails because Edwards doesn't go far enough - the MU looks too much like his regular style and not enough like a fantasy.
But heck, his work in issue #5 and 6 could easily prove me wrong. And what he's put down here is certainly strong enough for me to give those issues a shot.