Saturday, May 25, 2013

ABC: A-Z Mini-Series Review

DC Comics - America's Best Comics
One-Shot Mini-Series
32/ea. = 128 pages (2006)
$3.99/ea. = $15.96 total

Published: ABC: A-Z, Greyshirt and Cobweb #1; ABC: A-Z, Terra Obscura and Splash Brannigan #1; ABC: A-Z, Tom Strong and Jack B. Quick #1; ABC: A-Z, Top 10 and Teams #1

Contributors: Rick Veitch, Steve Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Peter Hogan, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon, Art Lyon, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Wendy Broome, Jose Villarrubia, Todd Klein, Wildstorm FX, and Terry Dodson

Synopsis: Behold the origins and secrets of the greatest heroes from America's Best Comics!
  • "Playing the Mind Gorilla!" - Greyshirt is Indigo City's greatest mystery man and Doctor Heinrich C. Claw plans to destroy him with a gang of psycho-enhanced gorillas!  First he makes the gorillas review the details of Greyshirt's career and secret weapons.  Can Greyshirt withstand the simian onslaught or will he become the mind-controlled puppet of Claw?
  • "Where It All Began" - The Cobweb's past is chronicled in a cheerful pin-up calendar.  See her as a pirate, a robber, French royalty, and through the Golden/Silver/Modern ages of superheroes.  Meet her arch-villains, lovely companion Clarice, and then celebrate the holidays.  
  • "The Lonely Galaxy Guide to Terra Obscura" - Learn the fascinating history of Terra Obscura - a bizarre counterpart to the ABC Earth as discovered by Tom Strong.  It's inhabited by Tom Strange and a bevy of superheroes including The Black Terror, The Ghost, Fighting Yank, Princess Pantha, the team S.M.A.S.H., and many others.  
  • "Splash Brannigan Conquers the Universe!" - Splash gets ready to take the comics world by storm by signing with Kaput Komics.  His career is short-lived after Daisy tries to elevate the art form.  What's an unemployed Splash to do?
  • Tom Strong is the science-hero of Millennium City and has lived for more than 100 years.  Marvel as he tells his astonishing origin and describes the incredible adventures over his long career.  Meet the Strong Family including his wife Dhalua, daughter Telsa, talking gorilla King Solomon, and mechanical man-servant Pneuman.  Learn about his home, tools, friends, and foes.  What does the future hold for this daring hero?
  • "Jack B. Quick - Boy Inventor" - Jack gives us a tour of Queerwater, Kansas and some of his zany experiments like a giant spider, strange attractor, and his neighbor Schrodinger.  
  • "Badge of Honor: Policing the City of Dreams" - Leni Muller writes her autobiography which gives a history of the amazing city of Neopolis. She describes it's origins and how the Omniversal Precinct #10 came to be, including a brief introduction to all of the officers.
  • "America's Best vs. America's Worst" - The America's Best team made up of Tom Strong, Splash Brannigan, Promethea, Johnny Future, and Cobweb take on the America's Worst team of Paul Saveen, Jack Faust, Yadrazza Pel, and Edward "Flip-Face" Platty.  
Pros: Nice covers by Terry Dodson, good to see some of these heroes after their own series ended, the Top 10 story is awesome, these stories haven't been reprinted

Cons: One-shot stories without any relation to each other (no over-arching plot), no actual Alan Moore contribution, many different art styles, Cobweb calendar seemed a little bit like a cop-out by artist Gebbie, no Promethea or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Mike Tells It Straight: This series of one-shots features origins and introductions to a host of heroes from America's Best Comics.  The format is simple with two stories per issue featuring two different heroes or teams.  Alan Moore was nowhere to be found in the series, but the storytelling was well-maintained by his collaborators.  Greyshirt, Cobweb, Jack B. Quick, and Splash Brannigan were all featured in the anthology book Tomorrow Stories (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) which ran from 1999-2002.  Only Greyshirt had a mini-series in 2001 while the others remained anthology fodder for their entire publication history.  It's interesting to note two Tomorrow Stories specials were released the same year as ABC A-Z.  I would guess ABC had a small revival in 2006.

Tom Strong ran from 1999-2006 (Vol. 1-6)and had two spinoff titles: Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)  from 2002-2005 along with Terra Obscura (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) from 2003-2004.  Top 10 ran from 1999-2001 with prequel Top 10: The Forty-Niners (by original creators Moore and Ha) in 2005 and mini-series Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct in 2005-2006.  The origin story here by Gene Ha and Peter Hogan was excellent and never reprinted as far as I can tell (we'll see if it's included, but not advertised in the Absolute Top 10 coming out in 2013).

Missing are stories/origins for Promethea or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is quite a shame since they're excellent works and fairly popular.  I found this mini-series (or series of one-shots) to be a pleasant surprise and nice refresher for the ABC heroes.  It didn't feel overly canned as a standard origin special and read more like continuing adventures of the heroes.  I'm disappointed Moore didn't contribute directly to the stories, but I imagine his dealings with DC became strained yet again in the mid-2000s.  I highly recommend picking these issues up if you like the ABC universe and especially since they don't appear to be collected anywhere else.

TO BUY and Recommendations: