Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tomorrow Stories Book Two Hardcover Review

Tomorrow Stories Vol. 2
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
160 pages
$24.99 (2004) Hardcover
$17.99 (2004) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401201654

Contributors: Alan Moore, Kevin Nowlan, Jim Baikie, Melinda Gebbie, Hilary Barta, Joyce Chin, Dame Darcy, Rick Veitch, Wildstorm FX, Bad@$$, David Baron, Nick Bell, Chris Chuckry, Jeremy Cox, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Tomorrow Stories #7-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: An anthology book featuring the further adventures of a group of exciting heroes:

A young man arrives in Indigo City with big ideas
Greyshirt is the mysterious science-hero of Indigo City.  His origin is shrouded in mystery and he strikes fear into the hearts of the legions of the underworld.  Apparently bulletproof, Greyshirt uses a suit of chain mail under his clothes to give him an edge over the criminal element.
  • A taxi driver without a license is driving home one night when he accidentally runs into a pedestrian.  The cabbie doesn't stop and the guy ends up being Greyshirt.  Will remorse get the best of the cabbie and turn him back toward the side of good?
  • "Thinx" - A young man arrives in Indigo City to find his fortune, but ends up embroiled in a crime he didn't want to commit.  Will Greyshirt get to the bottom of it and prove the young man is innocent?  
  • "Greyshirt the Musical!" - It's a musical version of your favorite grey-clad hero as he waxes poetic over Indigo City's charms.
  • "...For a Blue Lady" - Lapis Lazuli is Greyshirt's most deadly and desirable foe.  Learn her bizarre origin when she became a woman made of sapphire.  Greyshirt struggles with his quasi-love for her and pledge to battle crime.  
  • "Vermin" - Hitler and all his top Nazis are reincarnated as roaches in an old ladies kitchen.  They attempt a takeover, but don't count on Greyshirt to be a friendly neighbor with a can of roach spray. 
  • "Strands of Desire" - Greyshirt investigates the mysterious crime-fighter known as Cobweb.  He gets in the middle of a battle between her and the Money Spider, but ends up looking like a fool.  Will he uncover her secret identity or be outwitted by an experienced fox?
Jack B. Quick is the young genius of Queerwater Creek, a small farming town in the midwest United States. His young age belies an incredibly inquisitive intellect, almost to a point of mad indifference to the laws of nature.  His parents are often unwitting sports to Jack's wild experiments.  What wild invention will he dream up or absolute law of physics will he break next?
  • "Why the Long Face?" - Jack sets traps for the kidnapping aliens abducting good, honest people in the midwest.  He catches an alien, but will his quest for knowledge trample extraterrestrial 'human' rights?
  • "The Facts of Life!!" - Jack and his friend Teddy investigate the dastardly secret of the 'birds and bees' the adults have kept from them.  Unfortunately for Teddy, Jack uses him to test a hypothesis as they visit Puberty, Kansas.  
Jack makes another amazing scientific discovery
Cobweb is Indigo City's other science hero and equally shrouded in mystery.  Her lithe, beautiful figure glides gracefully through the night wearing only a wispy, transparent costume.  Aided by her lovely and highly-skilled assistant, Clarice, Cobweb takes on the chauvinistic criminal element and looks out for the better interests of the fairer sex whenever possible.
  • "Grooveweb - Ye Head Shoppe" - Cobweb and Clarice in the '70s!  They trip the light psychedelic through a tapestry of free love and cleverly disguised exploitation trying to find a place for liberated women in comics.  
  • "A Tribal Encounter" - Cobweb and Clarice wander into the jungle in their newspaper comic strip only to meet a group of lost New Jersey housewives who have gone 'native'.  A jungle prince raised by woodlice and manly adventurer appear to claim the dynamic damsels.  
  • "Farewell, My Lullabye" - Cobweb is a private detective who is hired for a job to find Little Bo Peep's lost sheep.  She questions Little Jack Horner, three blind mice, three bears, and Little Red Riding Hood to find clues.  Does Bo Peep's story check out or is she hiding something?
  • "Cobweb of the Future!" - Cobweb and Clarice give us readers a guided tour through the forty-millionth century where cities migrate on legs, people dress up in naked fat suits to go out on the town, and cleanliness is the highest form of eroticism.  
  • "Bedsheets & Brimstone!" - Cobweb and Clarice follow an obsessed art enthusiast who purchased a cursed painting.  They are all transported through the infernal object to a purgatory of physical pleasure and pain.  Can the two heroes escape back to the real world?
  • "Shades of Grey" - Cobweb infiltrates Greyshirt's lair and confronts the mystery man.  Will they fight it out or see eye to eye?
The First American and his young teen partner U.S. Angel are genetically-engineered bastions of truth, justice, and the American way.  It's not easy keeping the moral high ground when you represent a government full of liars and cheats.  It doesn't help having an underage partner wearing a skin-tight outfit either!
  • "The 20th Century: My Struggle" - FA tells his nephews about his role in the barbaric 20th century.  He basically invented everything and solved all the political problems of the world by himself.  Yep!
  • "Justice in Tights!" - FA and U.S. Angel get a camera crew and reality show.  Their lives are completely dysfunctional and they're shameless gloryhounds!  Can the two partners withstand the pressure of fame?  
  • "The Origin of the First American" - FA's origin is revealed!  Born in a trailer park and irradiated at a young age, Troy Todd becomes FA.  Joanie Juniper becomes U.S. Angel after FA sees her at a strip joint.  The rest is history!
  • "What We Probably Inhaled at the Toilet's Last Cleaning!" - FA becomes president of the United States and ruins the country in two hours.  It's a record-breaking romp of political misfortune.
  • "Being the First American" - U.S. Angel discovers a doorway into FA's head (like Being John Malkovich) and abuses her privilege by renting out time to his arch-enemies.  It all backfires when FA finds a secret door into her head too!
  • "The Death/Marriage/Son of the First American of the Future!" - U.S. Angel writes bad fiction on her days off and decides to create a story where she becomes the star (over FA's dead body of course).  When FA stumbles her partially finished story he writes in a new twist bringing himself back to life.  Now it's a war of two awful writers who both want the limelight at the cost of their partner's life!
Whose terrible writing will reign supreme!?
Splash Brannigan is sentient, four-dimensional ink created by mad comic book artist Mort Gort.  He was sealed away in an ink bottle for decades until Daisy Screensaver discovers him while toiling away at Kaput Comics.  Now he's making up for lost time as a clueless and horny superhero!
  • "A Bigger Splash!" - Splash and Daisy visit a fine art gallery right in the middle of a heist.  He jumps from painting to painting trying to nab the thieves.  It's a massacre of the old masters as Splash gives art nouveau a rinse cycle!
  • "Welcome to Coffee Con 2000" - Splash and Daisy attend a comic convention and all heck breaks loose.  Splash battles a darling of the modern comic age - Testostor the Terrible!  The owner of Kaput Comics squabbles over the rights for a crossover.  
  • "Splash of Two Worlds!" - Splash and Daisy visit an experimental science exhibition where Splash is exposed to a dangerously untested ray!  He splits into an ink-stained puddle and correction-fluid white avenger.  The two battle it out, but who will prevail and why do we care!?
  • "Splash City Rocker!" - Splash tries a career in music and then movies, but alienates Daisy in the process.
Pros: Moore scripts every story and was co-creator of all the characters, a good progression of stories following up the first volume, fun science fiction/crime noir/superhero satire stories, decent art, this round of stories gets a bit more mature than the previous volume

Cons: Very different art styles and characters are jarring to the reader, anthology format, some of the stories are hit-or-miss, not enough Jack B. Quick and too much First American

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore's anthology book from his America's Best Comics line concludes with this second volume.  The series garnered praise and won an Eisner award for best anthology series in 2000.  Moore teamed with prominent creators to produce stories in the same tone as the old pulp comics before superheroes dominated the comic book industry.  The stories felt a bit more mature in this volume than the first (particularly the First American where FA and U.S. Angel are depicted doing a lot of...naughty stuff).
Cobweb has been a very naughty girl!

I think each of the characters has a clever backstory/spin on old concepts and enjoyed at least one of their tales.  Jack B. Quick is a homage to old science fiction stories and I enjoyed both of his stories in this volume.  I wish there had been more tales featuring him.  Greyshirt is a homage to Will Eisner's The Spirit and I enjoyed almost all of his stories (the musical was a bit over-the-top).  Cobweb continued to be somewhat experimental with a newspaper strip format and guest artist Joyce Chin.  I really enjoyed the Greyshirt/Cobweb crossover in the last issue.  Her future story was hilarious!

The First American is a satire piece lampooning superheroes and popular culture in general.  I thought the stories got racier in this second volume with more sex, drugs, and dysfunction.  Probably my least favorite of all the characters, but still fairly entertaining.  Splash Brannigan is featured more prominently in this volume and grew on me as I read more of his stories.  I especially liked the one where he battles a whited out version of himself.

The series ended on a good note and featured some solid stories.  A few were duds, but most were entertaining and intended for a mature audience.  I would suggest this series for those who are sick of standard superhero fare and enjoy a good crime noir/science fiction/satire story.  I doubt we'll be seeing these characters in the future, but they pop up in the other anthology issues from ABC (like the mini-series ABC A-Z, Alan Moore's America's Best Comics, and a pair of specials which were never collected) and Greyshirt got his own spin-off mini-series (Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset) which I'm planning to review.  Stay tuned!

TO BUY and Recommendations: