Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 10 (Ten) Book One Hardcover Review

Top 10 Vol. 1
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
208 pages
$17.95 (2001) Trade Paperback
$24.95 (2000) Hardcover
$99.99 (2013) Absolute Edition
ISBN 9781563896576

Contributors: Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon, Barbara Schulz, Wildstorm FX, Todd Klein, and cover to #1 by Alex Ross

Reprints: Top 10 #1-7 (of 12)

Synopsis: During World War II the first science-heroes emerged to combat the apocalyptic menace of the Third Reich.  They were met by a smattering of science-villains and experiments from the Axis side.  When the war finally ended and the heroes (and villains) attempted to assimilate back into society they were the cause of enormous social tensions.  In answer to the rising difficulties between regular citizens and science-heroes the concept of Neopolis was born.  This new city was built to house all of the extraordinary and strange beings - science-heroes, super-villains, talking animals, vampires, mutants, robots, and even demi-gods.  Imagine a city where everyone has powers or some kind of ability - from the socialites to the lowest street urchins.  What happens when the uncanny becomes the mundane?
Smax and Toybox investigate a murder
at a bar for gods

The greatest problem faced by Neopolis' radioactive melting pot was how to maintain order among a group of self-proclaimed vigilantes, outlaws and former villains.  Crimes occur, but the degree of complexity increases exponentially in a city of super-beings.  The Neopolis Police Department was created for just this purpose and eventually hooked up with a multiversal peace-keeping pantheon as their 10th Precinct - Top 10 for short.  The officers of Neopolis are varied and capable.  They've seen it all and know how to handle things by the book.  The current roster is:

  • Robyn 'Toybox' Slinger is the latest recruit to the precinct and commands an assortment of automaton toys built by her father, 'Captain Lilliput'.  He's a former science-hero who retired and suffers from Alzheimer's.  Robyn joined the police force to honor her father.  She gets partnered with the hulking Jeff Smax who looks intimidating and has a gruff personality. 
  • Jeff Smax is still mourning the loss of his previous partner, Stochastic Fats.  Smax is anti-social and difficult to get along with, but one of the most powerful officers.  He's invulnerable, super strong, and emits a force-beam from his chest.  He initially gives Robyn a rough time, but slowly accepts her as his new partner.  
  • Duane 'Dust Devil' Bodine is a steampunk cowboy with enhanced boots and huge revolvers.  He has an elderly mother who is a human lie-detector so he had a strict upbringing.  
  • Peter 'Shock-Headed Pete' Cheney is like a human power-battery and wields electrical powers.  He's young, inexperienced, socially awkward, and highly bigoted towards robots.
  • Kemlo 'Hyperdog' Caesar is an intelligent doberman who wears a robotic exoskeleton under regular human clothing.  He's an experienced officer, ranked a sergeant, and runs the morning briefings.
  • John 'King Peacock' Corbeau is a devil-worshiper following the Yazidi religion.  He speaks to his god, Melek Taus, who resides in all physical matter.  King Peacock can ascertain the attributes and critical points in his immediate surroundings.  
  • Wanda 'Synaesthesia' Jackson can sense the world with multiple senses simultaneously and bordering on clairvoyance.  It comes in handy as a police detective.  She used to date Smax, but they broke up.
  • Jackie 'Jack Phantom' Kowalski can turn intangible and pass through objects.  She's an open lesbian and a lot of fun at parties.
  • Sung 'Girl One' Li is an artificial woman created to be the perfect human specimen.  She has enhanced physical and mental abilities along with the ability to control her skin pigments at will (like a chameleon).  
  • Irma 'Irmageddon' Wornow is armed to the teeth in a a battlesuit whose armaments include automatic weapons, missiles, and even a tactical nuke.  
  • Steve 'Jetman' Traynor is captain of Top 10 and very experienced.  He's a former ace pilot and highly respected by all of his officers.  

When Smax busts the son of a giant '50s
monster (who has since become a drunk)
the whole city is in peril
Neopolis still faces many problems including the Cosa Nosferatu - organized crime vampire families, widespread robot discrimination - derisively called 'clickers', enhanced substances - Mongoose Blood (or Goose Juice) among others, an invisible pervert called the 'Ghostly Goose', and a serial killer known as Libra who decapitates victims.  Come follow the officers of Top 10 as they attempt to keep the peace in the most amazing city in the world!

Pros: Moore writes an intriguing and rich story with excellent characters, funny and mature!, Ha's art is incredibly complex - he draws utterly dense and fascinating panels with cameos by famous pop-culture figures everywhere he could get away with it!, excellent concept perfectly executed, masterfully classic and won Eisner award for Best New Series in 2000

Cons: Heavy on the dialogue and a lot of different characters/sub-plots to follow, Ha's art is not flashy

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore delivers a masterful concept of the superhero metropolis fully-realized by Ha's detailed artwork.  He brings us down to street level by focusing on the police officers of the city.  This book is a character piece with an extensive cast which can be hard to follow at times, but overall brought a humanity to the typical heroics found in a superhero book.  Toybox was the perfect character to focus the reader's introduction to Neopolis and Top 10.  We meet and learn about the various officers of the precinct through her rookie eyes.

This book's art is dense with Ha and Cannon doing an amazing job portraying the city and all of its denizens.  Ha sneaks in dozens of cameos from popular fictional characters (like 'easter eggs' from dvds, but for comics) from The Simpsons to Santa Claus.  It's incredible and perfectly balances Moore's complicated writing.  Top 10 is a unique superhero book with a lot of drama, crime and a surprising amount of genuinely funny moments.  Moore writes comedy as well as his serious work and its all evident in this book.  One of my favorite sub-plots is Dust Devil's mom's super-powered rodent infestation.  Classic stuff.
Cover to trade paperback

He presents a lot of real-life police moments such as domestic violence, breaking up a rave, and busting hookers turning tricks.  All of the situations become fantastic with the superhuman element thrown in - like all the ravers are on 'goose juice' which makes them move faster than the human eye and the room looks empty!  The sub-plots extend into multiple issues with a random death becoming a bigger story later on.  The main story in this first volume is the hunt for the Libra Killer which is pretty interesting.  This series is unique and highly recommended.  Moore is at his best in terms of characterization and sheer fun.  It's not as serious as Watchmen by any means, but I really enjoyed everything about the book.  An Absolute Edition was recently released and it's definitely the way to go in terms of art appreciation for Ha's detailed work.  Pick it up!

TO BUY and Recommendations: