Monday, March 4, 2013

Man-Sized

Top Ten Volumes 1 and 2: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Zander Cannon and Gene Ha (2000-2002): If you've always wanted to see a drunken, Godzilla-like giant talking radioactive lizard wearing a 'No Fat Chicks' t-shirt, then this is the comic book for you. Moore's jolly yet serious mashing up of the superhero-group and police-procedural sub-genres (think of it as Hill Street Blues meets the Super Friends) is a great book, jammed with satirical material that doesn't detract from the drama of its various storylines.

After World War Two, the vast majority of America's super-beings, super-scientists, super-villains, and supernatural beings were forcibly relocated to the city of Neopolis because normal people didn't like having them around. Also robots and talking animals and super-pilots and a variety of other homages to pretty much every comic-book and comic-strip character ever. And they needed police. And then Earth made contact with a vast confederation of alternate Earths of which it was designated Earth-10. And so the tenth precinct of Neopolis was born: Top Ten.

While mysterious, super-strong, and mostly invulnerable (and initially very grumpy) Jeff Smax and his new partner and new officer Toybox are the focus of this "first season" of Top Ten, we also meet a rich assortment of cops, villains, and others. Moore does a nice job of hiding the "real" major case of the year until late in the game.

The weirdness of Neopolis, with everything from Bugtown to a robot ghetto (robots get discriminated against...a lot), is an endless source of stories. There's a bar where the gods of every major religion get drunk. There are weird new drugs and vices unknown to our world and diseases that only affect people with superpowers. There's Sergeant Kemlo, a dog with a penchant for tropical-themed shirts, operating in a human-shaped cybernetic exoskeleton; and Girl One, a nudist android; and Synesthesia, whose powers are pretty much right there in her name; and King Peacock, the Satanist magician. And others.

Jeff Smax will gradually learn to trust his new partner -- he's still getting over the death of his old one, and he has people issues anyway. Toybox will find out that the hero named The Rumour actually exists. And they'll all find out why Jeff's warning in a dream to "Beware Caesar" is true.

Cannon and Ha's art is terrific, jam-packed without seeming crowded, and with pleasing, and occasionally pleasingly intricate, costumes on everybody (Girl One and King Peacock must especially have been a pain to draw). And of course there's Gograh, that giant drunk lizard, and his trouble-causing, man-sized son Ernesto Gograh. Just don't let a giant drunken lizard with radioactive breath barf on you. Highly recommended.

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