Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Programme Vol. 1 Trade Paperback Review

The Programme Vol. 1
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$17.99 (2008)
ISBN 9781401218157

Contributors: Peter Milligan, CP Smith, Jonny Rench, Pat Brosseau, and variant cover to #1 by Ethan Van Sciver

Reprints: The Programme #1-6 (of 12)

Synopsis: American soldiers acquire several German scientists at the end of World War II along with an embryonic, prototype superbeing.  They covertly develop a superhuman program during the Cold War, but something goes wrong.  One of the young scientists on the project rebels and alters the right wing mental conditioning being artificially induced upon the superman.  He writes in broader liberal thought patterns and ruins the project.

The "Talibstan Terror" wreaks havoc
on US military forces
Thirty years later a monstrously powerful superbeing begins wreaking havoc in Talibstan.  Nothing the US military throws at the creature can stop it.  The being wears a soldier outfit from the former USSR.  It is revealed the Soviets managed to steal information on the superhuman project from the US and built their own arsenal of monsters.  The creatures have awakened, but the world has changed.  They seek out their creator in a Siberian prison camp.

Now the US has no alternative except bringing their failed superman back online.  Max is an over-the-hill bar owner who only cares about tending bar and screwing his girlfriend.  One day some government spooks show up and bring him in for questioning.  They tell him he's got powers and is the only one who can stop the monster in Talibstan.  Yeah, right.  He's not buying it and doesn't want anything to do with the lying government.

In order to bring Max around the government unleashes their other failed superhuman - a black man who thinks he's Senator Joe McCarthy, the fanatical anti-communist!  The Soviet superhumans make a splash in the US - right on the strip in Las Vegas and start destroying everything in sight.  Will Senator Joe knock some sense into Max in time to save the day?  Don't bet on it.

Pros: Dark storyline, mature/interesting superhuman concept, lots of twists and turns

Cons: Art is hard to decipher - too dark and shaded, Max is kind of a loser superman

Mike Tells It Straight: I'm a sucker for a good deconstructed superhuman story and The Programme seemed like the perfect way to satisfy that hunger.  The setup was pretty standard with Nazi scientists taken in by the US military to perfect their superhuman experiments.  We have a group of Soviet superhumans released and running amok in today's political climate (although I don't know why Milligan didn't just use Afghanistan instead of fabricating Talibstan).

Seemed like a good setup, but the art is too murky and the plot doesn't seem fresh.  Milligan is a great writer and he does a very good job with this book - polishing up the standard liberalism ruining the fascist superhuman  plot.  I hope the second and final volume gives us a worthwhile ending.

TO BUY and Recommendations: