Page 45 Review by Stephen
Occasionally, just occasionally, you find a Marvel comic that transcends its trappings and truly surprises you. THE INHUMANS by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee was one of the first, as quiet and eloquent as Neil Gaiman with every panel an essay in chiaroscuro.
Twelve heroes lost to cryogenic suspension during World War II find themselves revived in the 21st Century and a world they find baffling.
It's not just the technological marvels, it's the way society has moved on in their wake. For most it is progress, but not for all. And sixty-odd years in suspended animation give you no free passes for past deeds. Not when we can now match DNA; not when some contracts are open-ended through their signatories' immortality; not when you've alienated your now dying family with your shame about its true heritage. If the world has moved on then these individuals haven't: they awaken with desires still aflame, words yet unspoken, and businesses far from finished.
Adapting to modern life proves hard for some and impossible for others, with consequences that are decidedly worrying. One superficial show-off makes an utter TV tosser of himself, one has his heart-broken by the realities of life for kids in some urban schools, whilst another sultry sexpot conjoins vamp and ire to redecorative effect on her late-night assignations outside of the lesbian goth circuit she is wont to frequent.
At the centre of it all is a modern mystery: a whodunnit, a whydunnit, as a gay bar in New York City is trashed, its pool-playing revellers torn apart, stamped on, stamped out. It's not as obvious as you might think and its mechanics will keep you guessing until the moment the truth is exposed for all the world to see. Come back and read this review in hindsight, for I have chosen my words with care.
Straczynski has taken the old sort of superheroes created in innocence and transposed them, golden-age-tinted glasses and all, into the liberal/decadent/permissive (delete as appropriate to your world-view) 21st Century where they have as much to say about the there and then as the here and now.
"I was supposed to be... I was meant to be... the perfect man. The man of tomorrow. The man of the future. That's what they always called me. The press. The public. Even my father. I was supposed to protect the world so it could become the perfect future, and once that happened, I would fit in. I would be home. But I don't... I can't understand this future. This world. It's not what it was supposed to be. Clean. Pure. Perfect. There were supposed to be flying cars, and jet packs, and no more poverty, and buildings five miles high, and lunar colonies, and ---
" -- And instead it's a place of even more despicable crime, more depraved behaviour, people crawling on the devoured rind of the earth. I stay in the air because I can't stand the stink of it. I keep moving because that way I don't have to think, is this the world we fought so hard to save? A world I don't understand?"
That's the so-called Dynamic Man for whom "depraved behaviour" includes mixed-race marriages. Everyone is beneath him, whether he's flying or not.
Chris Weston's depiction of this Aryan uber-man is harrowing: his snarling sneers and body-builder poses ripped from mid-1900s German magazines, as repellently grotesque as he is physically fit.
Indeed, Weston has done a stunning job of capturing both time periods. So many remarkable little details like Captain Wonder's exposed, hairy legs making his antiquated costume even more dated. Best of all I relished Master Mind Excello's sour, pursed-lipped profile. More than that, however, it's comicbook storytelling at its finest on every single page: flawless choreography rich in detail and fierce in expression.
Weston's one of those troopers like DAN DARE's Gary Erskine and indeed Bryan Talbot who marry British (and other) comics' past and present to perfection. See Ellis & Weston's MINISTRY OF SPACE once it's back in print.