Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guarding the Globe

And now on to the other recently completed mini-series. Anyone who's been reading my List posts knows this isn't going to turn out well.

What makes this all the more disappointing, other than on its own merits (or lack thereof) is that Robert Kirkman has his name attached to it. First on the list, even. Sure, he could just be on there because he created the Invincible/Brit/Astounding Wolf-man universe in which the story occurs. He could have just left the writing to Benito Cereno, who's the other credited writer on the book. But I'm not going to put the failure of this book all on Cereno, even if he did write the whole thing. Kirkman's getting blame, too. You put your name up front on the writer credits, you gets the glory and you gets the shame.

This should be a lot of fun while being a hard hitting superhero story. Everything with Invincible and the other titles Kirkman has inhabiting that universe has done just that. Sure, I didn't care much for the Atom Eve and Rex Splode book. Rex was a tool, and I didn't buy Eve falling for him, but the book did have some good humor and a logical course of action.

Guarding the Globe starts out that way. A good bit of it starts with the reason for assembling a larger team. The original group (original at the start of this story, not the bunch that Omni Man killed long ago) is Brit, Robot, Monster Girl, Bulletproof, Black Sampson, and Shapesmith, with the occasional assist from Invincible. But Invincible goes off to fight the Viltrumite War while Robot and Monster Girl rashly rush into the Flaxan universe, where time passes much more rapidly than it does here. Cecil, in his sub-Pentagon headquarters, decides the team needs to be truly worldwide in scope in order to fight larger threats. It also needs to be expanded to compensate for missing members.

This takes a while and involves an adventure under sea where Octoboss is introduced as a threat. A garbled English speaking alien threat, but a threat all the same. Between Octoboss and Squidious in Super Dinosaur, it's looking like Kirkman has developed a penchant for tentacled villains.

I don't think the second chapter involving Octoboss serves much purspose other than introducing Octoboss, which is odd because he's not even the primary enemy as the series moves forward. He ends up being only one of a team run by Set, or Humongous as I like to call him. (Check out The Road Warrior for the reference.)

The third chapter goes back to assembling the international team, and has an amusing opening with Bulletproof, in his civilian identity, inviting the team to the opening of his photography exhibit. It's a bit awkward, what with his girlfriend being the genitally explicit subject of the photography. There's also an attempt to recruit Wolf-man to the team, but he's busy with his own troubles, which leads into a tangent involving Gorgg, the monster whose crown of his head is Stonehenge. He was defeated at the end of Wolf-man's own book, but now his bits are back and end up re-forming, only to be defeated again. The resulting presence of Stonehenge in middle America is amusing but not in the least significant to the larger story.

By the 4th chapter the new team is finally introduced and the remaining three issues end up being an entirely separate story from what's gone before. Sure, there were hints of things to come as Set assembled his own group of super villains. But it takes a turn in the last three issues that belies its DC inspired origins. The expanded cast of heroes is Cast Iron (Yugoslavia - which, by the way, hasn't existed for about 15 years), Kaboomerang (Australia), Outrun (South Africa), El Chupacabra (Mexico), Yeti (Nepal), Pegasus (Russia), Le Brusier (France), Kid Thor (Canada), Japandroid (Japan), Best Tiger (China) and Knockout (US).

I'm familiar with Knockout and Kid Thor from previous appearances, but the others are new to me. There's not a lot of individual develpment of these characters, which isn't surprising with only three or so issues to use. Kid Thor and Knockout are a couple. Outrun's primary goal appears to be to have sex with all the male members of the team. For the life of me I don't know why Pegasus is called Pegasus. She's not the winged horse. She's a person with wings. I'm not sure what, if any, powers she has beyond flying and stealing a winged horse's name. Kaboomerang has the hucksterism of Booster Gold. Chupacabra's a drunken mess because of his marital situation. Japandroid is an android with no known personality. Cast Iron is a cypher. Le Brusier is a dog and doesn't speak, though Pegasus understands him somehow.

Best Tiger is the most interesting one to me. He has an ability to guide bullets to their target, regardless of obstructions. I think he uses other weapons as well. To make things more challenging, he wears a blindfold, though he's not blind. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a lot of use in this story line.

So, after all this introduction, we get the threat from Set's bunch, who are an established group of crime bosses with territories throughout the world. They've been doing the usual crimes for profit, but now Set is leading them to a larger scale attack that lets the world know who they are and the threat they pose. They start with some hit and run attacks in different areas around the world where the Guardians of the Globe have opened offices. There's also a moon base for the Guardians, though it's not particularly relevant to the story.

By the penultimate issue they've shifted into an attack that kills most of the population of Paris. This is their big hurrah. This is going to set the world on its heels. This makes no sense. But I'll get into that in a moment.

After killing most of Paris, the Guardians arrive to fight. It's the expected knock down drag-out until, without warning that this might be some sort of problem, Brit removes Set's helmet. Everyone organic is frozen in time and space. Japandroid, not being organic, attempts to stop Set, but is no match for him and is nearly destroyed. Set then leaves Paris to start over in his plan to re-shape the world for his demonic father. The plan is to kill all the humans, without using his power to stop time and space, so that his father can then rule the world.

To this I say, WTF? First off, what kind of plan is it to kill all the humans so your father can rule what's left? What's left? Nothing's left. If you kill off all the humans, there's nothing to rule. It's an unpopulated rock. You can try to rule the beasts of the field, air and water, but to what end? They don't care if you rule them. They're going to go about their lives regardless. He'll be ruling a world with no one to do his bidding. What's the point in ruling if no one's being ruled?

Second, this is the worst sort of surprise ending. There was nothing up to the point of Brit removing Set's helmet that would have remotely hinted at Set having this ability. More importantly, there was no hint that he was operating within these odd rules. It's a gotcha kind of ending that the reader had no way of figuring out. It's like a bad murder mystery. On top of that, it's just dumb. Set's father wants to rule an empty world. What difference does it make if Set accomplishes that with his phenomal strength and his ability to manipulate the crime bosses into a world wide attack or if he uses the power his father gave him? If all you want is to rule an empty world, what's it matter how you get there? Why the need to test Set in this way?

Then there's the idea that the crime bosses would think this plan is a good idea. I don't mean the ruling an empty world bit. The story doesn't posit that as a reason Set used to cajole the others into the attack on Paris. No, the thing that makes no sense is why these crime bosses would follow Set in an attack that would put them in the public eye. Set says it's to keep the citizen scared and in his place (yes, he actually calls people citizens). But these are crime bosses. They're not bent on ruling the world. They want to make ungodly profits from the world. These are two different things. Going public does not further the latter like it does the former. The only way these attacks make sense for these crime bosses is if they've signed on to Set's overall plan to have his father rule an empty rock. There's nothing in the narrative that suggests they have or why they would.

Sure, some of them are simply scared of Set. But that only appears to be the case when he's putting down their own internal squabbling. It's not the basis for the bosses following Set. Of course, with the powers these bosses have, they'd individually be formidable for Set, and together might overwhelm him. Plus, they're crime bosses. They're not joining Set out of fear.

Finally, I have some issues with the covers for the individual books. There are variant covers that show indivduals, including the sixth issue which features Invincible. He's not even in the book. He hasn't been in the series since the first issue, where he spoke not at all and was merely briefly in the background during the Flaxan fight. The third issue's standard cover also features Wolf-man prominently as though he's a member of the team. He's not. He appears only for the team to try to recruit him and the fight against Gorgg. Both of these covers are rather deceptive. I know, it's nitpicky, given the history of comics and their covers, but with the other failings of the series, it still bothered me.

Even if you're a die hard fan of the Kirkman 'verse, I recommend avoiding this book.

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