Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Collapser #2 Review and Spoilers


Written by: Mikey Way and Shaun Simon

Art by: Ilias Kyriazis and Cris Peter
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 14, 2019

The opening issue of this series was very promising. In Liam James, writers Shaun Simon and Mikey Way had created an eminently likable and engaging protagonist and the issue saw him drawn into the kind of increasingly bizarre series of events that is the stock in trade of any self-respecting out-of-left-field comic book title. With Collapser being a Young Animal book, that's definitely a good thing. More importantly, though, the issue told its story clearly with dynamic art and, the occasional foray into self-indulgent monologue notwithstanding, impressively smooth writing. Will the second issue carry on that trend? Let's find out…

Well, the short answer is 'no'. No, it doesn't. Last issue ended with Liam being inexplicably transported to Stonehenge, a wacky but appropriately dramatic way to end that installment of the story. This issue sees him still at Stonehenge inexplicably attacking the ancient dolmens with his plastic sword, while apparently unaware of what looks like a miniature black hole in his chest. His frantic inner monologue does not shed light on the motivation for his attack on one of the more famous structures of the ancient world. Nor does it explain why, having attacked them with his plastic sword, they start to topple like so many Neolithic dominoes. Miniature black hole, I'm guessing.

Whatever the miniature black hole is or is not responsible for, I don't think its powers extend to arranging the convenient appearance of a red double decker tour bus to which Liam is able to catch up. The ensuing conversation with the driver/tour guide includes one of the clunkier bits of dialogue I've read lately ("You broke Stonehenge and you have insufficient funds!") but we're thankfully spared any further script disasters as the miniature black hole lights (darkens?) up again. The bus and its passengers are sucked into it and spat out again, this time in Egypt where it crashes into the top of the Great Pyramid. Cue some madcap chasing by Egyptian guards, more miniature black hole action and a double-page spread in which our hero jaunts through a whole slew of folklore and mystery associated locations like some paranormal Benny Hill. And then he wakes up, because of course he does.

Rather alarmingly, he comes to sat opposite the elderly gentleman with whom he had promised to play chess last issue. Unfortunately, Mr Edgar has evidently grown tired of waiting and shuffled off this mortal coil leaving a traumatized Liam to deal with his corpse and utter (well, think, really) the appallingly trite "I didn't even get to say goodbye!" No, you didn't, Liam. Or, more to the point, play chess with him.

You may be detecting a certain… dissatisfaction from yours truly about the opening few pages of this issue and you would be right. Last issue's impressive characterization and genuinely intriguing plotting have given way to… well, an awful lot of nonsense. Unfortunately, having hit the nonsense groove in the opening few pages, the creative team have real difficulty getting out of it. Jocelyn, who was the other stand-out character from last issue, ends up getting her friend committed because he's experiencing hallucinations. Liam spends an entire month (that lasts four pages) in a mental institution only to have the hallucinations reappear the moment he gets out – except, of course, this time Jocelyn can see them. Oh, and Mr Edgar turns up at the end. He may still be dead. I don't know. Or care.

This is so terrible it's hard to know where to begin. The creative team does not use the asylum section to say anything interesting about, say, mental illness and the imagination or, for that matter, give Liam (and the reader) a better handle on what's happening to him. Neither does it explore the inherent irony in someone who works in an institution becoming himself institutionalized. It's just there – a lacuna of inactivity in an otherwise frantic and silly story.

And it is silly. Not just because the events that happen to Liam are ludicrous, but more because the characters (including Liam himself) react to them in ridiculously superficial ways. The charm and depth of the previous issue have essentially been pissed away in a bizarre barrage of hallucinatory moments whose connection to the plotline established last issue is vestigial at best. Kyriazis' art is still very good, but here it is in the service of a story that has, to quote the bard, "eaten of th'insane root" and is threatening to plunge headlong into a world of untethered absurdity. There is, of course, still time to stop the madness, and I sincerely hope that next month we get something conceptually solid to which the more surreal moments can be effectively fixed. Fingers crossed.

Bits and Pieces:

After last month's engaging start, this is a mess. Hallucinatory madness is all well and good, but unless it is connected in some clear way to an ongoing narrative, the result is always going to be, as here, unsatisfying. Kyriazis' art is great, but the warmth and depth of last month's issue are notably absent. This is thin and charmless stuff.


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