Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Electric Warriors #6 Review and Spoilers

Greet With Joy Your New Overlords

Written by: Steve Orlando

Art by: Travel Foreman
Colours by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 17, 2019

It's here! The final issue of what is surely the most bizarre DC series in many years, Electric Warriors issue 6 has arrived. Will it spark and crackle with the excitement suggested by its title? Will the inevitable showdown between brothers Ian and Oscar Navarro be worth the wait? Will we actually get an explanation for why Lex Luthor's still around in the far future pretending to be Firestorm? There is only one way to find out…

Ian is going to fight his brother. That much is clear from the opening page. But, the fight can't happen until we first get an infodump. This being a Steve Orlando infodump, it raises more questions than it answers. We are shown Luthor consulting with a band of other superbeings (one of whom looks like it might be Ra's Al Ghul) and then striking off on his own to acquire the 'Firestorm matrix' via a 'supercollider'. (How? What? Never mind…) We see him retrieving Superman from the heart of the sun in his marvelium ship and using him to become the gestalt Firestorm we've seen this series, but no indication is given of exactly why Superman is hiding (presumably from the 'Great Disaster') nor are we given an adequate explanation of exactly how Luthor harnesses Superman's body for his purposes, especially given that Superman is hiding in the heart of the sun which gives him his powers. Luthor does mention Superman being "chained… by atomic Kryptonite" but, without context, it's difficult to view this as anything other than technobabble. We are then told that Luthor/Firestorm "tamed hundreds of thousands of worlds in one generation", which seems a ludicrously hyperbolic thing to say and, again, raises questions about just how Firestorm/Luthor did it. The art is no help here either. Although this exposition covers two pages, the art is too general to give anything but the thinnest of hints. It's all quite unsatisfactory.

Not that we have much time to ponder that, because we're back to a fight between Ian and Oscar who, although they have identical outfits, don't quite have identical powers. Weird. As might be expected, there's a lot of talking as well as fighting with Ian revealing that he does, in fact, believe in the great compromise in theory. It's just all gone horribly wrong in practice. Having spent time bonding with his fellow warriors, he now recognises that the notion of combat diplomacy has potential. Which is an odd conclusion to arrive at, given he and the others have spent the last couple of issues freaking out about being treated like so much meat? For Ian to go from angry rebel to willing cheerleader of a system that exploits young warriors under the guise of upholding the peace is a transformation I find hard to swallow. Surely, the entire concept of the 'great compromise' is fundamentally flawed, relying as it does on the premise that violence rather than debate does, in fact, solve everything?

Anyway, Orlando gives us a reconciliation between the two brothers that, because their relationship hasn't been adequately fleshed out in the last few issues like it could have been, does not have the impact for which the writer is so clearly striving. (And there's a somewhat awkward piece of shared dialogue that is as good a symbol as any of how close this comic comes to being very good and how it ends up missing the mark more often than not.) 

In the meantime, Kana, the Dominator and Serene take on Luthor ("the bald phallic one!" – What?) while he's distracted trying to get golden emaciated Superman to bond with him again. The Dominator grabs Luthor and threatens to blow himself up; there is much talking and then Luthor surrenders. Ian and Oscar embrace (awww), the Gil'Dishpan are apparently forgiven (what?) and the great compromise continues except this time with Ian and his mates in charge (what?). Superman buggers off back to his "home in the sun" (I don't think he means Barbados) with a wink and a wave and that, as they say, is that. There's an implication that the great compromise will morph into the United Planets, which I'm assuming we'll eventually see more of in some Bendis-related Legion title in the near future.

And, I am a little gobsmacked.

While it's true that there was a lot to tie up in this issue, I honestly didn't expect it to be quite this flat. Or anemic. While it makes sense in that it bridges the gap between the 21st and 31st centuries, this issue's ignoring of arguably the most important aspect of the plot in the previous issues (the link between cannibalism and the funding of the great compromise) is not only inexcusable but it also puts an awful lot of the responsibility for providing drama and resolution on the Ian/Oscar fight. Because of the lack of investment the writer has put into this relationship since issue 2 onwards, it simply cannot deliver what this series needs to make a memorable ending. There is, as might be expected from an Orlando comic, a lot of affection for the historic Superman-Luthor antagonism and for some of the more esoteric aspects of DC continuity. I'd even go so far as to say that the idea of putting the Superman and Luthor together in a Firestorm persona is so outrageous it's almost irresistible. The problem here is that Orlando seems too taken with that idea to provide a solid enough back story and setting in which it can be successfully explored.


Bits and Pieces:

This most curious of series comes to a conclusion in a way that leaves this reader, at least, a little deflated. Some plot threads are resolved very quickly; others are ignored altogether. While it's always good to see old elements of the DC Universe making a return, I can't help but wish that their handling here was more skillful and entertaining. Despite some very nice art, this is a dull ending to a promising series.


1 comment:

  1. My thoughts:

    1. A final issue should never have this much exposition. It should have movement (action, generally) to speed toward a satisfying resolution.
    2. If you have this much exposition, you need to go back and rewrite the series to ensure that #1 is satisfied.
    3. If you try and still can't avoid #2, go prostrate yourself in front of your editors and beg for another couple issues.
    4. If you have Superman in a surprise appearance, you actually use him.
    5. If you want to use the fraternal brawl as the climactic moment, make sure that both parties get face time throughout. In fact, scene shifts to Oscar would have been interesting and filled the story out.

    No argument with the score.

    This book took the long dive off the short pier the minute that Luther/Superman Firestorm was outed. Bummer. The entire concept has so much promise!

    Thanks for the enjoyable reviews, both in print and via podcast. Until the next book...