Or – “You Realize If We Played By The Rules, Right Now We’d Be In Gym?”


People in the Marvel Universe lay a lot of blame at the feet of Peter Parker, calling him a menace, a criminal, accusing him of things that he couldn’t POSSIBLY have done unless he could be in three places at once, acting so differently that he might as well have been written by three different people. *uncomfortable silence* Uh… yeah. But in any case, among the things that absolutely, unequivocally ARE the fault of Peter Parker are the plights of the kids called the Loners. Think about it: Mattie Franklin and Johnny Gallo both took on one of Pete’s identities to continue his heroism. Chris Powell (much like Rich Ryder and poor Robbie Baldwin before him) was hyped as “the next Peter Parker.” Turbo was a New Warrior, a group created of three different “next Peter Parkers,” TV Spider-Friend Firestar, Namorita and Punisher on a skateboard Night Thrasher to continue the good fight. Even Julie Power and her siblings (though further from the concept) were still obviously influenced by the most successful of the teen heroes. Heck, even seventeenth-stringers like Hornet and Rocket Racer (seen above) probably wouldn’t be on the streets without Peter’s bad influence. Spider-Man: encouraging juvenile delinquency and teen fist-fighting since 1962. Jameson was RIGHT!

Previously on The Loners: Life in the Marvel Universe moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. This is doubly true of those with costumes (even ugly ones like Mattie and Chris) and it is for this reason that The Loners (previously called ‘Excelsior’) were formed. Each Lone1.jpgmember is a former superhero, and each has a reason to want to maintain the ‘former’ part, though they’re not all that successful. Julie “Lightspeed” Power fell off the wagon first, leaping off a tall building to take a joyride… er, flight. Then, the support groups’ newest member, Mattie “Spider-Woman IV” Franklin, put on her tights (and convinced Chris “Darkhawk” Powell to join her) to take out a group of criminals running MGH, a drug created from the body chemistry of super-humans. They discovered that the source of the drug was Nekra, and our young heroes were nearly beaten until Johnny “Ricochet” Gallo joined them in costume, and the three of them took out the cell together. Mattie has convinced Chris and Johnny that they should help her in wiping out the source of the MGH: the drug runners who kidnapped her and held her hostage back in New York (who escaped capture and ran to the West Coast because nobody with a costume in New York fights crime anymore, just one another.)

Last time we set up the premise, and this issue starts with a focus on former Slinger Ricochet. “Forget dreams,” Ric says, “L.A. is the city of FANTASY… It’s never about ‘What now?’ but ‘What’s next?’ It’s about discovering what’s hot and finding it faster than anyone else. It’s a way of life that’s even reflected in the names of the movies they make. ‘Heat.’ ‘Speed.’ ‘Boiling Point.’ ‘Fast and the Furious.’ That’s how I roll! Or, at least, how I USED to roll…”


That scene right there almost (but not quite) hits the pathetic note that Gallo needs in order to balance the “needs a good swift smack upside the head” factor that his previous monologue instilled in me. Mr. Gallo is an example of what is referred to as a ‘poseur,’ a schmuck who wants to be cooler than he really is, but I think he knows it. “I used to fight crime. I was a teenage superhero. I was Ricochet.” He worries about putting on his costume again, and laments the fact that his mutant abilities (Hey! A member of the 198 that isn’t an X-Man! Call Ripley’s!) give him a responsibility. After all, what good are super-powers if you don’t use them to help people, right?


Ah, yes… Angst, the staple of teen superhero books. Johnny calls up his friends Chris and Mattie, and the three of them meet for burgers at a local greasy spoon so Johnny can drop his bomb… He’s going to admit exactly what the three of them did during the last meeting. I don’t know about you, but this whole thing really has a strange metaphor to it, like they’ve done something perverse and naughty (though, when you think about it, putting on special tight clothing and running around in alleyways also describes a lot of not-so-savory activities…)


Mattie is, predictably, livid. I didn’t read much of her original series (Bart Sears gives me a rash), but was she always this prone to flying off half-cocked? She leaps across the table, yanking him up by his shirt, (Way to hide your powers there, Franklin. Why not shoot some webs around, fling off your top and scream “Spider-Woman’s here, and the girls are out! WHOOO!” Subtlety… it’s not just the word after substance in the dictionary.) The artist formerly known as Spider-Woman really rips into Ricochet, analyzing his motives, and also bringing up one of the problems in the story…


Even taking into account that it’s Mattie’s account of his motives, there’s a problem here. All the material that I can find (meaning Wikipedia and some promotional interviews) indicate that Lightspeed is 16. I know that Marvel in recent years has no problem sexualizing 16-year-old women (if you’ve ever seen X-23, NYX, or Trouble, you’ll know what I mean) but Johnny is a college student. Even if he’s a BRILLIANT college student, he’s probably over 18 years of age. Johnny is skirting a thin line here, and I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with Julie being the object of his affections. I’m not going to start a debate (and ask that you don’t either, at least not here, as this ain’t the place for it), but I wanted to get that out there before we moved on.

Richo-Johnny asks Chris-hawk what he thinks, and Chris thinks Johnny needs to shaddup about it, and just let the issue lie. Johnny’s not so sure, and at the meeting that night, he finally comes entirely clean on WHY he’s in L.A. and what caused him to want to give up the Ricochet identity in the first place. “My name is Johnny Gallo and I was a teenage superhero… The truth is, back in New York, I got a friend of mine killed.” He then proceeds to explain about his old friend, Eddie McDonough, The Hornet. When the Slingers broke up, they still hung out, still fought crime, but for different reasons. Eddie wanted to do good, Johnny just wanted the fame, fortune, and women that came with the gig.


That kill-shot comes courtesy of ‘Wolverine: Enemy of the State” (not to be confused with any of the million other Enemy of the State stories in recent years) and it’s nice to see it mean something, as that arc was overrated, overblown, under-plotted, and really did some damage to Wolverine’s credibility as any kind of real superhero. But that’s just me, I suppose, with my wacky archaic “superheroes should be kind of heroic” rules. Johnny finally explains that when he initially joined the group, it felt good to be among friends, people who could understand why he wanted to leave his suit behind. And then, it all came apart…


Am I the only one who thinks that Julie’s the only one who really gets what’s going on here? Super-heroics haven’t screwed up these people’s lives. These people’s lives have screwed up their superheroics, and that’s entirely different. Maybe a better tack might be helping each other to be better PEOPLE and thus better SUPERPEOPLE, rather than concentrating so fully on not being superpeople at all and entirely limiting your growth. If you make NOT being a superhero your only focus, how is that any better than their original problem? You’re still putting yourself at the mercy of an imagined external force. Later, Johnny tries to contact Mattie, but she’s still mad at him, and won’t answer. A second call to Darkhawk goes unanswered as well…


Well, big ups to Chris for landing Mickey “Turbo” Musashi, the holy grail of ex-superhero girlfriends (and yes, she IS wearing pants, but they’re a skin-toney color and she’s apparently wearing stockings OVER them), but points come off the final total for ditching Johnny’s call. Whatever happened to ‘bros before hos,’ Powell? Where’s your loyalty? He’ll probably blame it all on ‘Evilhawk‘ again, like that dark twin excuse ever flew. And if that doesn’t work, tell ’em it was Alan-Michael Spalding, you hockey puck. With his friends not taking his calls, Johnny is forced to attack a new nest of MGH pushers alone, only to find former Spider-character Delilah, a 90’s refugee who once teamed with Pete Parker when HE was using the Ricochet name and alias. Two months in a row we’ve had characters interacting with old villains from New York who just HAPPEN to show up in L.A. and just HAPPEN to have personal connections for them. Given that New York has over EIGHT MILLION folks living in it, and that the city of Los Angeles is larger than the ENTIRE STATE of Rhode Island, I’m finding my credulity stretched quite thin here. I live in Topeka, Kansas, and I almost never run into people I work with while knocking about town. Delilah and Ricochet do the Itchy and Scratchy (“They fight and fight! And fight and fight and fight!”) for a couple pages, in a room filled with women floating in tubes of liquid, possibly more MGH sources. Ricochet forgets that Mom always told him not to play ball in the house, and inevitably, a tube is broken just as Johnny drops Delilah for the count. Ricochet returns to his earlier “Please give me a punchinnaface” narration, smirkily saying that sometimes life is like a different kind of movie…


Hey, it’s Ripclaw! No, wait, that’s Warblade… Nope, nope, it’s coming to me… Uhh… Is her name ‘Dethstryke Bludforse?’ No? Oh, wait, right, that’s Penance who used to be Monet St. Croix while the real Monet was actually two twin eight-year-olds Krazy glued together, but then they became Penance and Monet became… um… herself, and Mondo was killed, but it turned out that we never knew the real Mondo at all, it was just his clone, and then Husk grew up to have sex in midair in front of her mother while Skin’s name was misspelled on his headstone. Don’t you love ’90’s comics? (We should have stuck with Dethstryke Bludforse.) Adding to my semantic confusion, young Robert Baldwin (that’s three Speedball references in one review, I win a Kewpie Doll!) now calls himself Penance in ‘Poorly Drawn Plotless Car Crash With Tommy Lee Jones’ Comics And Stories Thunderbolts. Marvel is now calling her Hollow, and I’m good with that. We hang from this cliff, wondering who is in the disco-bondage catsuit, who made her the ‘Hollow’ back girl, and whether he/she/it will join the team or kill them.

My head is really spinning from this issue. The reveal of why Johnny quit being Ricochet worked for me, but his rationalization of putting on the costume undermined that, and the whole “Spandex Anonymous” angle is wearing thin for me already. Phil and Mickey seem heavily into the whole “no costumes” thing, but every single one of their group-mates has already suited up. As I said last time, the premise of the book is undermined every time this happens, and while I like the concept in theory, treating superheroing as an addiction is demeaning to real addictions. I didn’t like it when Joss did it in Buffy, and I don’t like it here. The art was good, though evocative in places of the Dodsons, and Karl Moline can draw some frightfully pretty female faces (check out Julie in the scene where Ricochet storms out, for example.) C.B. Cebulski’s story does a good job of showing the confusion and chaos that comes from being in the 18-25 year old age group, with the good and the bad that comes with it. You believe these characters can be this conflicted, but you also want to smack them in the face for their self-absorbed and narcissistic behavior. There are a lot of elements that don’t quite sing for me (the MGH dealers, Johnny’s crush on Julie, Mattie’s short temper, Chris’ instability as Darkhawk) but they’re balanced by some nice character work, and a sense of real, honest regret in Ricochet’s story about Hornet. It’s a good effort, not quite great, yet, but certainly deserving of 2.5 stars out of 5, with four issues left to really kick out the jams and wow me.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Matthew Peterson on

    You… actually wooted DELILAH?

    I… have no words.

    I suppose it’s just proof that everybody is somebody’s favorite character, but… DELILAH? Seriously? Are you sure you’re not just trying to live up to your ‘weird’ catchphrase?

  2. Is it a bad thing that I can’t remember who Delilah is but I get the whole Penance/Monet/Emplate/St. Croix twins and Mondo thing?

  3. Mmmm… product placement, sweet, sweet product placement. It’s like mana from Microsoft AND Sony.

  4. Maximus Rift on

    It just proves that everybody understands something of the story.

    As for me, I like that Ricochet is back and now has a “Peter Parker”-like guilt trip making him 1 step closer to being a mutant-“Spiderman” :)

    I hope that they develop Hollow character and make her more that “Rouge and Wolverine retarded mute child”. For gods sake, let her talk!

    I also hope that by the end of the series they realize that this “superheroing is an addiction” crud is BS and get back on the horse thogh the book doesn’t give me that vibe.

    BTW, if they do actually become a team, how would they fit into the current Initiative? I mean some ting has to replace Champions(was called X-static when I first saw it) when it tanks.

  5. Matthew Peterson on

    BTW, if they do actually become a team, how would they fit into the current Initiative? I mean some ting has to replace Champions(was called X-static when I first saw it) when it tanks.

    Hard to say what will happen if they become a team… It should be noted that the Fifty State Initiative is designed to make sure that each state has AT LEAST one superteam, I don’t know whether that means ONLY one. Either way, if the Iron Dictator doesn’t like them he’ll use nanomachines to take away their powers or have them killed by The Crimson Dynamo or something.

    Elements of the Champions motif HAVE been done before, a number of times, such as Marvel’s own X-Statix… and DC’s Bloodpack… and Image’s Noble Causes… even including some of the notions behind Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood (ugh). Marvel’s reliance on ‘story hooks’ like “Superhero Support Group” and “Superhero Reality Show” is eventually going to bite them in the butt when they realize they’ve marginalized the bulk of their superheroes into these quirky roles and that it’s going to be nigh impossible to redeem them back to actual heroic status.

  6. Matthew Peterson on

    Is it a bad thing that I can’t remember who Delilah is but I get the whole Penance/Monet/Emplate/St. Croix twins and Mondo thing?

    Define ‘bad.’ Sure, it might be bad in a “How many braincells have I devoted to remembering stuff like this when my Algebra classes are entirely gone?” sense, though probably not in a “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light” sense.

  7. I first got into comics with the ‘Delilah-Rose’ relationship, most especially how she was drawn as a Bond-Girl-type beauty by some and a muscley powerhosue by others. I most especially liked how the Black Tarantula was able to carve the image of a Giant Spider, in a wall, with her neck.

    Not surprised she’s here…she was last seen with Ricochet, fighting Roughhouse & Bloodscream, who did his party piece on her. Then when the Rose got locked up she disappeared…I was just glad they brought her back. Now I wish you’d shown what she looks like in Loners.

    Oh, and that wasn’t a ‘Woot’, it was a ‘Woo’. And, yes I am weird.

  8. I think Loners would possibly work better as a support group if it was in reaction to Stamford and the vilification of teen heroes, instead of heroing as an addiction. Instead of wanting to stay out of costume because they fell like alcoholics, staying out costume for fear of creating another Stamfordis a more compelling hook in the post Civil War Marvel universe.

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