Monday, August 8, 2011

Preview: The Last of the Greats

Writer Josh Fialkov, best known for crime noir comics Tumor and Echoes, is jumping wholeheartedly into the superhero ring with his latest creator-owned title, The Last of the Greats, debuting in October from Image.

Illustrated by Brent Peeples, Greats is not your average capes and tights superhero book. In fact, labeling it a "superhero" book is probably a mistake, given that where there are heroes, you expect to find villains. Fialkov's superpowered world is not quite so black and white. The Last of the Greats is an exploration not so much of those who wield that power over us ordinary humans, but of humanity itself, and of what happens when our dependence on the Greats is exposed as the weakness it truly is.

In 1991, seven beings of immense power came to Earth in order to help us, to protect us. At first they were seen as benevolent gods, curing diseases and feeding the hungry. Humanity came to rely on the Greats and, as is so often human nature, quickly came to resent them.

We needed them. And we hated them for it.

(While the rest of the comic bears little resemblance, this initial premise flashed me back to the first couple years of The Authority, first written by Warren Ellis and then by Mark Millar, the turn-of-the-century superhuman series about superheroes determined to save humanity from itself, regardless of whether humanity actually wants to be saved.)

Cut to 20 years later. Earth is besieged by millions of unknown vessels. Six of the seven Greats are dead, murdered by those who would be saved. One Great remains, hidden away from humanity in what appears to be a giant Arctic fortress (of solitude).

Where his siblings sought to connect with us, to spread peace and harmony, the Last of the Greats chose isolation. He knew his brothers' and sisters' generosity would be spurned eventually. They were new, all-powerful, beyond our comprehension. The Last knew we would turn on them eventually. We always fear what we do not understand.

But in the face of such overwhelming odds, a group of humans, some who were seemingly handlers or ambassadors to the Greats, their most fervent advocates, sought out the Last, to beg him for the help his murdered siblings gave so readily. The conversation does not go ... smoothly. And help does not come without a price.

Joining Fialkov on this epic tale is artist Brent Peeples, whose clean, expressive artwork is a great complement to Fialkov's precise, evocative text. Each one of the Greats is distinctively rendered, as are the principal human characters. Peeples deftly conveys a wide range of emotions, everything from anger and jealousy to guilt and remorse, joy and gratitude. He can draw huge, cavernous backdrops and cityscapes as well as close ups and action sequences. His artwork will definitely be an asset to a story that's as much about ideas as it is about actions.

The first issue of The Last of the Greats sets the stage for what appears to be a wonderfully philosophical and complex series about just what it means to be human in a world given over to gods. How would you react if six Supermans came to Earth and systematically fixed everything to their liking?

There are also explosions and bloody deaths if that's more your speed.

The Last of the Greats #1 ships in October from Image. Be sure to pester your local comic shop to order you a copy.

No comments:

Post a Comment