Sunday, August 15, 2010

Your Womb is a Weapon

The Great Ten came to a premature end last month, which is a shame on a couple of fronts. The most obvious is that by being short an originally intended 10th issue the story was truncated, coming to a fizzle of a conclusion rather than a climactic confrontation. The big battle between The Great Ten and the robots in the Gobi Desert is set up but not seen.

More so, though, there's inadequate exploration of perhaps the most novel new super power seen.

Before getting into that I'll summarize the story, as it's clear vast numbers of you did not partake of this series. The Great Ten is a team of Chinese superheroes run by the Communist Party. Unlike a certain college football conference, the Chinese Communist Party can count, so there are 10 members of the team. The leader is August General In Iron. The rest are Thundermind, Accomplished Perfect Physician, Celestial Archer, Immortal Man-in-Darkness, Ghost Fox Killer, Mother of Champions, Shaolin Robot, Seven Deadly Brothers, and Socialist Red Guardsman. Some of them could hook me into a series on the names alone. Accomplished Perfect Physician? Where's Rex Morgan?

Anyway, the basic set up is that the ancient Chinese pantheon is attacking the major cities of China to bring down the Communist Party. These apparent gods are actually people who've been given super powers with Durlan technology. They have no recollection of who they were previously and believe they really are the ancient gods. Turns out all that is a dodge to distract the Party from the army of robots that was being built (also from Durlan technology) in the Gobi desert that's really going to take down the Party. All this is brought about by rogue elements of the Taiwanese government (ROC).

I found it interesting in several respects. Writer Tony Bedard takes the aliens crashing to Earth out of a US landing and into China, a twist on the canard that dates back at least to Superman. Not that he's the first to do so, nor to make the aliens considerably more hostile than infant Kal-El. It's the prism of Chinese culture and ideas of good governance that makes the telling interesting. Though China has officially been an atheist country for more than 60 years, the old cultural norms, if not the deities behind them, still hold sway. The tensions between those old ways and the Party's aims are the obvious story setting behind the more forthright conflict between the Party and the ROC.
Scott McDaniel's art style provides a clear view and some evocative exaggerations. It's a somewhat cartoon style reminscent of Japanese anime at times, but not quite. With the influence of anime in comics here, it does give the feel of a comic created in Asia, not just about Asia.

Each of the originally planned 10 issues was supposed to feature one of the team members. The first 8 issues did, but the 9th ended up mashing Socialist Red Guardsman and Mother of Champions, with Socialist Red Guardsman getting the short end of the stick. That was too bad because it's clear the character had undergone a lot of things that had changed him from a dogmatic enforcer of Party doctrine to an isolationist hiding out in the desert.

But it did allow for quite a bit of Mother of Champions. She's one of only two female members of this team, and they're polar opposites. Ghost Fox Killer is from some mystical dimension. Anyone she touches dies, with the exception of August General In Iron. Her physical isolation makes her quite passionate about her mission and loyalty to August General In Iron.

Mother of Champions is a former scientist who was exposed to a particle that turned her womb into a weapon. Yes, the title of this column is no exaggeration. She gets pregnant and gives birth within a matter of days, bearing a litter of 25 at a time. The products of this litter grow to adulthood and die within 8 days. If the father is someone with powers, the litter acquires those powers. Even if the father doesn't have powers, the litter mates have the ability to be trained, in fighting skills that would take a normal peson years to acquire, within a day. They're conceived for specific missions and conveniently expire by the end of the mission. With her role requiring sex with an unending parade of men, as well as the accident having made her apparently immortal, Mother of Champions is becoming more remote from humanity.

In this story Mother of Champions has sex with Socialist Red Guardsman to create fighters to combat the robots in the Gobi Desert. He's radioactive, so the kids are, too. Her flashbacks in the story indicate she's had sex with Celestial Archer and Accomplished Perfect Physician, among others, to create super broods in past times of need. I can't figure out how that would work in those instances. Her power is based on science, albiet comic book science. Celestial Archer and Accomplished Perfect Physician are mystically powered. By the rules of comic book logic in the DCU, those powers shouldn't pass on to children.

But I digress. What I really don't get about Mother of Champions is how this power is in the least bit useful, even if it works the way it's supposed to. There's no way the power is any good for a sudden threat. When the fake gods show up, there's nothing she can provide to help fight them. Long term threats are no good, either, as the super kids are dead in 8 days. Only through a forced set up in this series is the power employed to fight the robots, who conveniently sit and wait a few days after the rest of the team has discovered they're the true threat. If the rogue Taiwanese had launched their attack as soon as they had to have known their plan was discovered, the fight would have been all over before the womb warriors were of any use.

Mother of Champions seems like one of those concepts that are the product of druken bullshit sessions. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when put into an actual story it came out to be befuddlingly limited in usage. It reminds me of pre Alan Moore Swamp Thing. A shambling, speech impeded swamp creature had a limited number of stories that could be told while holding a reader's interest. Mother of Champions is like that. Now that she's out there in the DCU, what she needs is her own Alan Moore to take what's now a limited concept and run with it in new directions.

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