Monday, October 3, 2011

The End League Volume 1 Ballad of Big Nothing Review

The End League Vol. 1 - Ballad of Big Nothing
Dark Horse Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
104 pages
$12.95 (2009)
ISBN 9781595821959

Contributors: Rick Remender, Mat Broome, Sean Parsons, Wendy Broome, Eric Canete, Naomi Baker and Rus Wooton

Reprints: The End League #1-4 (of 9)

Synopsis: He's the most respected and loved superhero in the world and he has a secret: he's responsible for destroying it.  Back in 1962, Astonishman caused the Green Event which granted hundreds of thousands of humans superpowers and forever changed society.  The age of Magnificents began and brought the end of the world as most superhumans were not altruistic enough to avoid exploiting their powers for selfish reasons.  The supervillains soon outnumbered the superheroes.  On the Day of Annihilation the villains teamed up and killed all of the heroes.  All except The End League - the final group of heroes for the end times. 

The team is a benchmark of iconic superheroes:
  • Astonishman - flight, super-strength, invulnerability, super-senses, laser vision, and vulnerability to hellfire (Superman)
  • Soldier American - super soldier enhancement, long life (active since WWII), and can generate energy swords (Captain America)
  • Divinity - counted among the Greek gods, called the "god-killer", wields a powerful sword with both awesome destructive and healing properties (Wonder Woman)
  • Codename Black - human without superpowers, near-perfect fighting abilities, advanced technological equipment, his family received superpowers from the Green Event and became heinous villains (Batman)
  • Blur Girl - superspeed, lesbian (The Flash)
  • The Blue Gauntlet - flight, energy-based powers from an alien parasite, lesbian (Green Lantern)
  • Mother Hive - telepath, immobile (Professor X)
  • The Prairie Ghost - living poltergeist, mystical horse and chain with massive hook (Ghost Rider)
  • Arachnakid - four arms, spider powers, crush on Blur Girl (sorry buddy, I mean Spider-Man)
  • Grimwood - plant-based powers (Swamp Thing)
  • Brother Occult - magician with a demon named Azul bound to him (Doctor Voodoo)
These last heroes must fight a losing battle against the world's most powerful villains: Dead Lexington, Scarecrow Sinister, The Smiling Man, Wolfsangel, and The Minister of Matter. 

Ambushed on a last ditch food raid the League is caught by their old ally - Thor, god of thunder!  Only Astonishman can match the lobotomized and reprogrammed Norse god's raw power and not everyone gets out alive! 

Pros:  Some good art by Broome, Remender writes a suspenseful thriller, characters are likable after only a few panels

Cons: Another post-apocalyptic, alternate-future knockoff of the Justice League, hefty price tag for a meager four issues, jarring art team switch halfway through last issue

Mike Tells It Straight: Remender blatantly copies every iconic superhero he can get his grubby little hands on, and I enjoyed each second.  The story premise is a bit far-fetched, but the characterization is very well done and similarities to existing heroes saves time explaining abilities, motivations, etc. along with neat little twists on powers/relationships.

The plot twists, secrets, and betrayals keep coming in this edge of your seat thriller.  Broome delivers some of the best art of his career and the story makes you feel like this is really the end of the line.  My only complaint is the introduction of a new art team halfway through the last issue.  Canete's style is much different (reminds me of Carlos Meglia) than Broome's.  We'll see if the final installment (released in 2010) will be as interesting, but if this first arc is any indication it will be one hell of a ride!

TO BUY and Recommendations: