Sunday, November 10, 2013

Top 10 (Ten) Book Two Hardcover Review

Top 10 Vol. 2
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
144 pages
$14.95 (2001) Trade Paperback
$24.95 (2002) Hardcover
$99.99 (2013) Absolute Edition
ISBN 9781563898761

Contributors: Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Zander Cannon, Alex Sinclair, Wildstorm FX, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Top 10 #8-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: Neopolis is a city like no other on Earth.  It was built to accommodate the legions of science-heroes (and their counter-part villains) born out of the World War II conflict.  Designed by ex-Nazis with their leftover plans for a new Reich filled with ubermensch (supermen) or in this case 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 highest ranking socialite to the lowliest street urchin.  What happens when the uncanny becomes the mundane?

A teleporter accident snarls up morning traffic.  It's no joke as
the parties involved are in a grave situation.  Notice the many
cameo appearances - Man-Bat, Valkyrie from the New Mutants,
The Falcon, The Vulture, The Black Racer, who else!?
The greatest problem facing Neopolis is how to maintain order among a group of self-proclaimed vigilantes, outlaws, and former super-villains.  Crimes still occur, but the degree of complexity increases exponentially in a city of super-beings.  The Neopolis Police Department was created to answer this call and eventually hooked up with a multiversal peace-keeping force as their 10th Precinct - Top 10 for short.  Our first introduction to Neopolis and Top 10 is through the eyes of Robyn 'Toybox' Slinger who is the newest rookie on the force.  She is partnered with the gruff powerhouse Jeff Smax who is unfriendly on a good day and worse all of the other times.  Fortunately most of the officers are much nicer and help show her the ropes.

King Peacock heads to Grand Central in order
to follow a lead in the mysterious death of a
drug courier
They include Kemlo 'Hyperdog' Caesar, Irma 'Irmageddon' Wornow, Jackie 'Jack Phantom' Kowalski, Duane 'Dust Devil' Bodine, and John 'King Peacock' Corbeau among others.  Neopolis still faces many common urban problems - teleportation accidents (called 'jump-bumps' and very messy), 'Goose Juice' drug use (makes the users move faster than the human eye can follow and appear invisible), domestic violence, bigotry focused on sentient robots (aka 'clickers'), and traffic accidents (one driver, Bob 'Blindshot' Booker, is really blind and uses 'zen' senses to drive as a cabbie in Neopolis - bad idea!).

The murder investigation in the previous volume escalates to endanger the entire precinct as the perpetrator is revealed.  One of Top 10's officers dies and is inevitably replaced with a new recruit.  The super-mouse infestation at Dust Devil's mother's apartment escalates to cosmic proportions putting the multiverse in peril.  The apprehension of the Libra Killer leads to an even bigger conspiracy which threatens to shock Neopolis to its foundations.  How will Toybox fare in the turmoil and can even the powerful Smax make a difference?
The situation at Dust Devil's mother's apartment
escalates to cosmic proportions with the
super-mice and super-cats 

Pros: Moore writes a rich story with great characters, Ha's art is detailed and complex - the little cameos of popular culture fictional characters are really fun, neat concept of a city completed populated by superheroes, all of the various sub-plots from the first volume are resolved, masterfully classic and won Eisner award for Best Continuing Series in 2001

Cons: Dialogue-heavy, a lot of different characters and sub-plots to keep track of, ending to main underlying murder plot was somewhat abrupt and felt like the series ended abruptly (i.e. why didn't it keep going?)

Mike Tells It Straight: The final volume of Alan Moore's and Gene Ha's classic superhero trope ties up all the loose ends of the first volume.  Moore is definitely at his best in this series and it's a mix of crime drama, superheroes, and comedy.  I was surprised at how funny and creative this series has been with Ha's hilarious 'easter egg' cameos of popular culture fictional characters - from Lost in Space to the X-Men's Age of Apocalypse plus the situations/interactions of the various officers.

Cover to trade paperback
The art is excellent and completely matches the story - Ha delivers dense visuals and gets better with each successive issue.  I must say this series is the perfect blend of writing and art. I particularly liked the teleporter accident issue, King Peacock's trip to Precinct 1 (aka Grand Central where the Roman Empire never fell), and the super-mouse infestation at Dust Devil's mother's apartment which plays out as a cosmic superhero crossover complete with Galactapuss (cat version of Galactus).  Classic stuff and totally hilarious.  The murder sub-plot from the first volume gets resolved in truly epic fashion and the final issue is a restart of sorts as a new officer, a sentient robot named Joe Pi, joins the force.

Cover to Absolute Edition
This series won two Eisner awards and I wish it continued longer under Alan Moore's writing.  A second volume called 'Season Two' ran with Zander Cannon at the helm (the guy's a multi-talented creator who can write, draw, ink, and probably color too).  Moore and Ha produced a prequel volume called Top 10: The Forty Niners which was absolutely amazing.  It's collected with the recent Absolute Edition and I'll recommend that particular version as the perfect presentation of the series.  Ha's art shines in the over-sized, glossy-paper format and it includes all his work on the series.  I can't recommend this series enough as refreshing and unique take on the superhero genre.  I'm hesitant to read the follow up series (Forty-Niners aside) for fear of what happens to these now-beloved characters.  Moore and Ha instill such humanity in them that the reader can't help but feel a connection.  Stay tuned for more!

TO BUY and Recommendations: