Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Establishment Series Review

The Establishment
DC Comics - Wildstorm
32/ea. =  416 pages w/ads (2001-2002)
$2.50/ea. = $32.50

Published: The Establishment #1-13 (of 13)

Contributors: Ian Edginton, Charlie Adlard, GH, Jenna Garcia, and Wildstorm FX

Synopsis: The British government has used a covert team of superhumans for well over a century.  This group is known as The Establishment and protects Britain from all manner of impossible threats which conventional forces would be useless against.

The current group consists of:
Meet The Establishment (from left) - The Pharmacist, The Golden (3),
Jon Drake, George Bulman, Scarlet, and Raphe Equus
  • Jon Drake leads The Establishment and is a master tactician, but otherwise appears to be entirely human.  Looks can be deceiving and he holds within himself an insane superhuman waiting to be let loose.  He is a complex individual and sometimes rails against the orders handed down by the government.  
  • The Pharmacist was a child prodigy and incredible intellect.  His studies and self-experimentation while solving the riddles of the universe left him in dire physical distress.  He was rescued from death's door by an all-powerful entity from a neighboring dimension.  The extent of his abilities are unknown, but he is the most versatile member of the team.  He can destroy and heal in equally vast measures while possessing the benign innocence of an emotionally stunted man-child.  His hair is akin to The Bride of Frankenstein and he wears syringes on the tips of each finger.  Both traits provoke it being hard to make friends.
  • The Golden are a trio of siblings who nearly perished in a plane crash in the Himalayas, but were rescued by a lost tribe of humanity.  The children were given superpowers and mentally linked.  Their powers include flight, energy projection, and the ability to creep people out.  
  • Scarlet washed ashore on a beach with no memory of who she was or where she came from.  She possesses immense strength, speed, and intelligence.  Despite her seemingly capricious exterior she is a deeply caring person and married to another team member.
  • Raphe Equus is possibly the perfect human.  He possesses great strength, speed, intelligence, and gorgeous wife (Scarlet).  Highly capable, effective, and a snappy dresser.  
  • George Bulman is a drunk.  He usually hangs around The Establishment's headquarters either drunk or nursing a killer hangover before getting drunk again.  He's a normal human with only one talent - to channel the spirit of a dead gay man.  
  • Chris Truelove is a dead gay man who can be channeled by George Bulman.  Truelove died because of Bulman and the pair are cursed to share a psychic link from beyond the grave.  There exists a passageway for dead souls (called the "Dead Space" and actually the multi-dimensional corpse of a long-dead god) where Truelove inhabits.  Many Earthly woes are caused by seepage of toxic creatures of the after-life from the Dead Space.
  • The Baron is currently a teen with the ability to summon hard light armor and weapons.  All raging hormones and superhuman abilities.
The Establishment's latest mission includes repelling a Daemonite siege on a sleepy town where they discover a powerful metahuman named Charlie Arrows.  Pre-cognitive with a mean streak, he's come home to die after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  Problems arise when an old schoolmate named Paul Frost appears and is definitely not what he appears to be (human that is).

The Pharmacist performs a quick diagnosis
of Charlie Arrows
Next they welcome the fine touch of publicity as the British government decides to debut them after The Authority hold the US government hostage.  A group of decades-lost astronauts returns to Earth, but they brought something dreadful back with them.  Only The Establishment can stop a takeover from little green men from outer space.

Something is rotten in Britain as the faces behind the manipulations are revealed on both sides.  Dr. Orwell amasses a group of clandestine superhumans to pierce a hole in The Bleed, but the shadowy figure behind The Establishment's origins appears to stop him.  Who is Mother?  Can The Establishment rally in the eleventh hour to save the very fabric of space and time?

Pros: Edginton and Adlard write/draw every single issue together, some interesting and out-there story concepts, links up to greater Wildstorm Universe stories, very British, team has shown up (albeit rarely) in subsequent Wildstorm titles, massive homage to British pop culture and literary works

Cons: This series has never been collected and probably never will, art is decent although not flashy, plot and storylines tend to have convenient and outlandish endings, often more emphasis on witty banter than actual characterization

Mike Tells It Straight: This series was loosely spun out of the wildly popular series The Authority and was as similarly short-lived as the other spinoff, The Monarchy (which lasted 12 issues).  Two Brits (Edginton and Adlard) are the duo behind the series and despite an obvious riff on the far more popular The Authority this series gives us some good science fiction stories.  What I found particularly incredible is just how fucking British this series is.  The amount of pop culture in-jokes and characters based as homages to other British television series/movies/novels was astonishing.
The Golden vs. an invading army from Venus

Listen, the art's not great, but Adlard went on to become the main artist on The Walking Dead (after Tony Moore evaporated following issue #6) and he can draw a story.  He does some good work here and his art skills grow over the course of the series.  Edginton is a solid writer and he writes some interesting stories.  I really liked the fact he used dangling plot lines from other Wildstorm books as part of the stories.  The most important one which ended this series was Alan Moore's Majestic at the end of the universe story from Wildstorm Spotlight #1 (reprinted in Alan Moore: Wild Worlds and Mr. Majestic).

The series is not the same caliber as The Authority (which had more flashy art, employed more widescreen scenes, and had better writing), but I found it rather entertaining.  We get some interesting concepts and it links to the wider Wildstorm Universe in surprising ways.  The ending felt a bit rushed, but was still good.  I would recommend this series as an offbeat alternative to the mainstream (and quite frankly played out) The Authority books.  

TO BUY and Recommendations: