Top 10: The Forty-Niners – A Comic Review

Posted on November 13, 2007. Filed under: Reviews, Uncategorized |

Top 10: The Forty-Niners – A Comic Review

Some Stories Never Change

The Forty-Niners is the beautiful prequel from the Eisner award-winning duo that brought us the original Top 10 series. Genius author Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and artist Gene Ha (Global Frequency) bring us the story of the early days of Neopolis, a city/ghetto created especially for people with super-abilities and special powers. Animals that can talk, supernatural beings, mega-intellects and superheroes need only apply.

The story opens on August 1st 1949, four short years after the end of World War II. Old battle wounds are still fresh for the combatants of both sides of the lines. The heroes and war criminals are returning home to find that their country has provided an autonomous place for them, out of the public’s eye. On the train ride to the city, we meet a young Steven Traynor, a.k.a. Jetlad, the man who will eventually become the Captain of Precinct Ten. The story follows Jetlad and Leni “Skywitch” Muller, Traynor’s one time enemy now partner, as they join the Neopolis police force in nabbing super-badies.

 

As the story progresses we are introduced to different characters in the burgeoning police force. Many of the heroes from the future Precinct Ten have equivalent counterparts in the past. For example Robyn Slinger’s father, Sam, commands his own army of tiny toys. Cathy “Peregrine” Colby’s born-again Christian character is much like Joanna “The Maid” Dark’s persona (Joanna Dark is obviously based off of Joan of Arc, even her name is close to Joan D’Arc.) These personalities team up together to fight crimes that ordinary humans would never be able to handle. From vampire sex-for-sale rings to plots of Nazi world domination, these superheroes do their best to forge a new path in a still experimental new society.

Alan Moore’s writing is par for the course with some of his other works. He is creative and imaginative as always but at times he is a little wordy. A word of warning, this is not another Batman: The Killing Joke, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman or Watchmen. As good as this book is, if you expect to walk in and get your socks blown off you may be in for a let down. Moore does create a fantastic and beautiful world with his story-telling abilities but just like with Anthony Hopkins, sometimes the movie is just okay (don’t get me wrong, Alan Moore’s “okays” are still top-notch).

What really helps to set this book apart is Gene Ha’s gorgeous artwork. Some of his panels could be coming right off of a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post magazine cover. The lighting effects and the light shades of browns and tans really do give you the feeling that you are being taken back to another era. Just like with the earlier issues of Top 10 that are set in the future, what is happening in the background is just as much fun and is just as entertaining as what is happening in the fore. At first, I did find it quite overwhelming, but I learned to get over the fact that at times I was spending five minutes looking at one scene. It finally hit me that what I was actually looking at was a mini piece of art.

It really is interesting to take a look at what happened to all of the heroes who fought in World War II as they try to work themselves back into a regular routine again. Sometimes, though, we tend overlook the similarities that we have with our enemies. After a war that brought us the “Rape of Nanking”, Japanese atrocities in Korea, the furnaces of Dachau and Buchenwald and the wholesale slaughter of people who “just weren’t like us”, you’d think that many would want to challenge their own personal bigotries and prejudices.

From the start all the way through to the end of the book, people continue to show an ingrained distrust and hatred for vampires, homosexuals and even robots. There is even a cattle car (reminiscent of the same train cars that brought the Jews to the extermination camps) where the undesirables are stuffed to be brought to Neopolis (poor Casper). Even though every religion has had its problems with ethnic prejudices, the faithful are most often the ones that try to break down the walls of ignorance and distrust that separate us. The message that Jesus teaches is one of inclusion and love regardless of someone’s history or pedigree.

From the Roman Centurion of Matthew 8 to the Syrophoenician woman of Mark 7, Jesus worked outside of his cultural norms to help those who were “not like him”. Jesus’ teaches that God is the God of all. His divine breath lives in every one of us. Those things that make us different are those things that make us unique. Every last one of us is a gift from the hands of God, and we can see through the life story of Jesus, that he too could see that gift. This is something special that has been handed down by the Son of God, the ability to see that which makes us unique but to also see how that uniqueness, if used correctly, can bring us all together.

 

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