Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top 10 (Ten) Beyond the Farthest Precinct Trade Paperback Review

Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
136 pages
$14.99 (2006) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401209919

Contributors: Paul Di Filippo, Jerry Ordway, Wendy Broome, Jeromy Cox, Randy Mayor, Jonny Rench, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: It's been five years since Robyn 'Toybox' Slinger joined Precinct 10 (Top 10 for short) during one of the craziest year's in the precinct's history.  Things have changed in Neopolis, a city completely populated by science-heroes and extraordinary beings who don't fit into normal society.  Top 10 polices the city and is aligned with a multiversal peace-keeping force led by a Commissioner residing in another dimension.  The precinct's lineup has also changed in these five years and a new set of recruits are learning the ropes.

A new threat has emerged in the skies over Neopolis - the Hell Ditch Pilgrim who appears to be a fearsome cyborg with vast powers.  What is his link with the new drug called 'Darkshots' recently introduced into the city and primarily targeting robots?  Captain Steve 'Jetman' Traynor faces stiff bureaucratic pressure after the Pilgrim appears and his relaxed command style is criticized by the newly-elected mayor, Albert Famaile (literally a talking-baboon).
Recognize any of these faces in the crowd?  
The veteran officers get split up and paired up with the new recruits:
  • Duane 'Dust Devil' Bodine is a science cowboy paired with Chelle 'Curlew' Chambliss, an avian (human body and bird's head) with an ear-splitting sonic scream.  
  • Peter 'Shock-Headed Peter' Cheney generates massive amounts of electricity and notoriously intolerant of robotic citizens (called 'clickers' as a derogatory) is joined up with 'The Subliminal Kid' Luhan, for all intents and purposes a human with a television head able to broadcast any type of image.  Is Luhan a 'clicker' and can Cheney accept him?
  • Cathy 'Peregrine' Colby flies with artificial wings and is a devout Christian.  She gets teamed with Parsifal 'Hoodoo Priest' Congo, an apparent tribal witch doctor able to summon large deities to perform requested tasks (like moving rubble or battling criminals).  The two new partners have wildly clashing religious beliefs.  
  • Wanda 'Synaesthesia' Jackson can see her surroundings with an extra sense which borders on psychic 'feelings'.  She is paired with Paulie 'Saltator' Oldwood who is a young man with enhanced physical abilities.  Her experience is undermined by his irresponsible attitude and disregard for the rules.  The fact he only wears a pair of swimming trunks and has an awesome body may be a bit distracting.
  • Jackie 'Jack Phantom' Kowalski can turn intangible and loves women, but has a fairly unsuccessful love life.  She gets teamed with Jenny 'Panthalassa' the mermaid!  Jackie gets a little distracted herself since Jenny doesn't wear any clothes and has a beautiful body!  Jenny's hydro-kinesis comes in pretty handy when they get an assignment to catch a monster in the Neopolis Bay.  
  • Irma 'Irmageddon' Wornow wears a cybernetically enhanced war suit equipped with a frightening arsenal including a tactical nuke.  Her new partner is Jeff Smax's sister (who also happens to be his lover), Rexa Smax.  Just imagine the stoic Smax as a woman, but she's nice.  Yeah, it's hard to picture. 
Ordway's covers are reminiscent of old Silver
Age superhero comics
When the mysterious Rumor surfaces you know things are bad!  What's the deal with Girl Fifty-Four, the newest version of the classic Girl One model (killed in the first Top 10 series)?  Can the officers of Top 10 survive the endless jungle of red tape and bureaucracy so they can save Neopolis?

Pros: This mini-series is a sequel to the award-winning Top 10 series and Smax, Jerry Ordway is a very capable and veteran artist - he adds a plethora of fun fictional character cameos just like Gene Ha did, Paul Di Filippo is an amazing science-fiction author with many successful books and adds a few neat concepts to the story

Cons: The team of Ordway/Di Filippo completely butcher the Top 10 universe, Ordway's art is more cartoony than Ha's hyper-detailed and gritty art, too many story threads crammed into too few issues, ending resolution was rushed and glossed over quickly

Mike Tells It Straight: I was really excited to see a sequel to the critically-acclaimed (and one of my personal favorites) Top 10 series (see reviews for Vol. 1 Vol. 2 The Forty-Niners Smax).  When I heard Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and even Zander Cannon weren't involved it made me worried.  Then I found out Jerry Ordway (prolific comics veteran and long-time Superman artist/writer) and Paul Di Filippo (equally prolific science-fiction writer and author of The Steampunk Trilogy) were the two creators it put me somewhat at ease. Well, sorry to say, but this pair completely missed the mark.

Ordway's art was at polar opposites to Gene Ha's iconic depiction of the officers of Top 10.  Ha's art was hyper-detailed, gritty, and refreshing.  Despite being highly capable Ordway's art felt like extremely generic  superhero-genre work and detracted from the realism set forth in the original series.  Probably the most enjoyable part of Ha's art was the many cameos of pop culture fictional characters he snuck into every panel.  It was quite a kick and Ordway admirably follows suite, but he chooses more cartoony characters which feels a bit out of place (Ha would at least render the cartoon characters in realistic detail to add a new dimension to them).

Di Filippo got one thing right
 - the Mayor is a talking baboon!
Di Filippo's a famous science-fiction writer, but fairly new as a comic book writer.  He had some interesting ideas (superspace, some of the new characters), but his plot was hopelessly cramped by the short length of the series (at only five issues vs. twelve for the original series).  The result was a mess of sub-plots with painfully brief attention given to each before the final act.  I speculate the series was cut short prematurely by the publisher due to low sales and/or there were scheduling conflicts with the creators (Di Filippo in particular).

The pair of creators and short length of this mini-series successfully drained any life out of the Top 10 characters.  It was a travesty in light of the work which came before by the original creators.  The story felt rushed, characters two-dimensional, and scripting awkward.  No time was spent to refamiliarize the reader with the returning characters and even less time was spent on new characters.  One of Top 10's core concepts is the juxtaposition of superheroes with the mundane everyday, but this series throws this aside and attempts to make the series another lame superhero book.  The drama was killed in a mad rush to merely finish the main plot.  It was horrible!  A brief sequel (Top 10 Season Two) was released after this miserable series and I'm hoping Zander Cannon (Ha's inker for most of his run) with his intimate familiarity with these characters can do a better job.  Stay tuned!

TO BUY and Recommendations: