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Planet of the Capes

Some time ago, I think nearly a year or so, I reviewed Hero Happy Hour. The literary beating I gave this book has really never been equaled in my reviews and this is mostly due to the simple fact that I have not found a graphic novel that gained my utter hatred so quickly as did that comic. Until now.

Larry Young (Last of the Independents, Astronauts In Trouble) and Brandon McKinney (Elfquest, Switchblade Honey) have ousted Taylor and Fason as the collaborative team to take a somewhat interesting idea involving superheroes and completely fail to do anything with it. And the part that stings is that both of these creators are supposed to be some of small press’ better artists, not to mention that I have liked their work before this debacle of three color ink.

“Nobody learns anything. Everybody dies,” is the description on the back of the graphic novel, and it is sadly accurate. Young and McKinney have crafted a story…or at least something that vaguely resembles a story’s distant cousin, about… pretty much nothing.

The book opens with some convoluted alternate history of Young’s world where superheroes exist. This alternate history is the first sign that this book is absolutely lacking in structure and point: for some reason, Ben Franklin decided way back that instead of the Eagle, America’s national bird should be the raven, because it is a “bird of prey.” I’m not entirely sure, but I think a raven is actually a scavenger bird.

It doesn’t really matter, because the only reason that Young introduces this bit of parallel history is to explain why one of his characters, who is named Justice Hall, is dressed like a bird. At no other point in the story does this alternate history factor in and never is it mentioned again. It’s shoehorned in for no reason other than to create a false sense of plotting and back-story for one character. And believe it or not, this one or two small bits of information about that character is all that the reader receives. Way to show you’re an in-depth writer Young.

Some other superheroes show up; the archetypes we might expect are present with a Superman clone called The Grand, a Hulk-ing monster called Schaff, and the Batman-esque Justice Hall. The only almost-original character is Kastra, who has powers of some sort, though what they are I do not know, but she’s also dressed in a toga, so let’s just call her Wonder Woman. They all gather in a city to watch Schaff randomly and for no reason smash cars and steal children while the fire department handles the wreckage. Then they go to their space station, where something explodes and they end up in a dam in an entirely different world where there are no such things as superheroes. Schaff and Kastra drown and Justice Hall and The Grand punch each other once each and die. I wish to God that I was exaggerating.

There is no functioning plot, no reason for the characters to be there, and no real justification for killing the tree to print this god-awful collection of dead characters and invisible plot. There is nothing here to read and nothing to interest the reader.

The only reason I can fathom for Young, who is a decent if not great writer, to concoct this non-narrative is some form of comment on the superhero genre. Perhaps Young is stating that the superhero genre has nothing to it anymore, that it is “nothing” and not worthy of writing about. This is not an invalid criticism as much of superhero comics are bad comics that pander to the lowest common denominator of the readership, but the way in which Young goes about it shows him as incapable of really making the point.

He attempts, in perhaps two instances of dialogue, to be sarcastic and suggestive about superheroes and their actions, stating that it is okay for Schaff to destroy the business district and steal a baby because “He’s just a little pissed off at the state of things. He’s got all this power and can’t seem to harness it for long enough to do anything with it.” It’s easy to see scenes like this, where Young thinks he’s being clever, but he drops these little bits of word balloon gold in out of nowhere and never follows up with them. Highlight this with the fact that this is one of the largest lines of dialogue in the entire book and you can see the near pointlessness of the writing. Panels will be silent for long stretches of time, and while I can easily enjoy a silent comic, the pauses that Young takes and McKinney draws, are simply panels repeating the same images, for no seeming affect.

Maybe an eyebrow position changes, but the panels and story do not move along so much as just shift to the next image. There’s little progression within the text and you could easily separate the book into two sections, read them independently, and it would not affect the book.

McKinney’s artwork is fine, but paired with such a lifeless script, he’s not working very hard to convey anything. Kastra looks like a harem girl sketch taken from Elfquest and the rest of his character designs are appallingly bad. Justice Hall looks like a big bird suited guy. The Grand is a bad rip of Superman in almost every respect, save for his penchant for wearing hooker boots. McKinney also seems to lack the ability to make any hand-to-hand combat look exciting, because he has no eye for movement within his panels. There is nothing interesting in this artwork, nothing that pulls the reader in or makes it easier to comprehend the story. The story and art could be separate and it really wouldn’t matter.

I truly hate this comic and I’m most disappointed by the two creators that I know are better than this drivel. McKinney handled art duties rather well on Switchblade and seemed adept at complementing the story. Not here. Young has both an eye for comedy and adventure comics, thanks to his experience writing AiT, (AiT/Planetar’s namesake comic) but none of the experience is there. He should be able to write a good satire to lampoon superhero comics, but the nonsense that he puts to page is so full of holes that it is clearly a work beneath him and far beneath you as a reader. Do not buy this piece of trash comic that somehow manages to be pretentious and completely lacking in quality commentary, because it will simply be a waste of your $12.95. If you can’t think of a more clever way to attempt commentary, then simply don’t write it and make damn sure it doesn’t get published.

Planet Of The Capes


Robert Sparling

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