The Loners #3 (of 5)

by

Or -”Do You Realize It’s SNOWING In My Room?”

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I’ve reiterated over and over what bothers me about the Loners: If it’s a superhero comic, and the premise is that the characters are trying to avoid being superheroes (and treating their costumes careers as an addiction) then either they’re going to fail, making them seem weak, or they’re going to succeed, and it won’t be much of a superhero book. This issue takes that inherent contradiction, adds some silly pathos, and at least one emotional outburst worthy of “The Bold & The Beautiful,” and the results are… less than satisfying.

Lone1.jpgPreviously, on The Loners: Julie Power, Darkhawk, Turbo, Ricochet, Spider-Woman IV, and Green Goblin IV have formed a support group to keep one another from using their powers, not because it’s illegal or anything, but because of the havoc it causes in their lives. However, Mattie Franklin (Spider-Woman) is only using it as a cover, and convinces Darkhawk to join her on a midnight attack on drug dealers. They encounter Nekra, who is selling her mutant body tissue (eeww) as the basis of a drug called MGH, which gives the users short-term superpowers. It is revealed that Darkhawk and Turbo are dating, that Ricochet is apparently now Emo-chet, and that Mattie is prone to outbursts of anger for little to no reason. Ric mounts a second raid on the dealers, but all his teammates are too busy with their own baggage to help him. He encounters Spider-Man villain Delilah, and frees one of the women from the tube in which she is being held, to reveal her as Hollow, the artist formerly known as Penance. This issue opens with Phil Urich, the former Green Goblin, revisiting his lunch. “If there’s one word I’d use to sum up my life, it’s ‘control.’ I like having it…”

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“…when I can’t even control the demons that lurk inside me?” Phil looks into the mirror and sees the Goblin there, hovering over him. So, the one person who seems to have his $#!+ together is actually just as bug&$@! as the rest of the team… Interesting. He leaves the restroom, and we find that the rest of the Slingers New Warriors Leftover 90′s Characters Loners are gathered in a hospital waiting room…. all save Julie Power. Uh oh. Ricochet stands up to try and talk to Phil, but gets a psychotic rant worthy of Willem DaFoe (it’s apparently a rule that all Goblins have to be delusions nutbags) in return. “Have you even been listening at the meetings all these months?”

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Nice work, Turbo. Now is there any way we can get someone in this title to act like a grown-up without being all grave and lectury. An doctor wheels out Julie on a gurney (and it’s apparently very cold in the waiting room) and wants to know the truth about what happened. “The lacerations she suffered were clean, almost surgical.” When everyone mutters and mumbles in return, the doctor points out the elephant in the room, and reminds them of the Registration Laws that say superheroes must sign up and that nobody at Marvel can have any fun anymore, but Phil explains that Julie IS registered, but she’s retired. “They’re ALL retired.” Yeah, good luck selling that bill of goods with Ricochet standing right there in costume, covered in blood. The doctor leaves, and the team grills Ric for the story on what happened. He explains how he found Hollow in a tube, and she immediately attacked. Julie arrived, and tried to calm her with a light show (a power I don’t recall Julie ever having before…)

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Julie does a pretty good job, but goes a step too far. Hollow looks at Julie’s hand, and her face changes from serene to angry. Lightspeed in name only, Julie doesn’t have time to respond as the look on her face turns to pure hatred, and Hollow moves to strike…

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Now, I’m no master of perspective, those fingers look like they’ve punctured her shoulder, chest, and throat. These aren’t the kind of wounds that you just shrug off after a quick surgery, and I don’t ever recall the members of Power Pack having healing factors, either. Hollow throws Julie’s heaving bleeding form away, and Ricochet is forced to retreat and get his fellow group-member to the hospital. But, as he tells the story, Phil asks why he was even in the lab in the first place, and Ric doesn’t want to tell, looking at Mattie in a very guilty manner (since she is the one with the grudge against this particular MGH ring) and suddenly remembering something else…

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Okay, I may be biased by years of comic reading, but I think Ricochet has the right idea here… Innocents in danger, experienced super-heroes who know exactly where they are, this seems like a crystal-clear time to save the day, or at least to call the Initiative. Mattie, the designated spider-person, reminds her that great power blah blah blah great responsibility, and Phil replies that he’s totally sick of hearing that. Heh… As they leave, they realize that Hollow has followed them to the hospital, and Darkhawk and Spider-tween power up (somewhat ironic, after spending five minutes telling Ricochet how putting on his costume was a mistake. Phil stops them from attacking, instead trying to parley with the dragon…

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Well, that was lucky… Unfortunately, their luck (to throw in an extra cliche) has run out. A woman teleports in with a horde of her enforcers (including Delilah, Salieri) and prepares to take her property back. She looks like someone I should know, but I can’t for the life of me place her. The big silver “N” on her belt pretty much pegs her as a super-type, but I got nothing…

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Phil tries to slap her hand away when she grabs at Hollow, but the woman tells him that it would be unwise to try that again… She explains that his little team has cost her enough money, and she’s taking back her investment. Phil has no idea what she’s talking about, and she replies “I assure you, Phillip. That a woman of my power and resources is rarely wrong. Perhaps you should keep better tabs on your friends’ extracurricular activities.” This angers Mattie greatly, and the fact that this is the woman in charge of the drug ring that imprisoned her and harvested her flesh to make illegal drugs, for once I don’t think she’s overreacting. The team prepares to butt heads, but Mickey (Turbo) orders them all to stand down, instead walking up to the woman, and speaking in Japanese. “There’s no need for this. Let us discuss matters privately in our own language.” They talk quietly (out of earshot) for a few moments, and Turbo then bows and walks back to the team. “I made this all go away. It’s done.” What the HELL? Am I to believe this all boiled down to some BS Wolverine-talking-about-honor bizarre Japanese thing?

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I truly hate this ending. Apparently, all Japanese people are schooled in the ways of the Yakuza or something… If only we’d had an Italian hero here to call in the Mafiosas, we’d have been set. The issue ends with all The Loners contemplating the losses in their lives and the loneliness they all face, while Phil is once again haunted by the laughing visage of the Goblin.

The good news: this is, once again, a well-drawn issue, and the characters (especially Julie) look very good. But the plot leaves me with only one question: WHAT THE #*$&@??? I was able to accept that the very MGH dealers that kidnapped Mattie were coincidentally in L.A. as well. I was grudgingly able to accept that coincidentally they had hired Delilah, who has ties to Ricochet. But this whole “let’s talk this out” plot point leaves me both confused and angry. What exactly did Mickey have to promise to make the whole issue go away? And what the heck are we supposed to take away from that conversation? That, sometimes, you have to let a warehouse full of kidnapped women get away because it’s inconvenient for you to get involved? WTF? The way the ending falls apart completely ruins the issue for me, not to mention the strange pseudo-racism of that entire conversation. All these characters seem to act the way they do because that’s the way the writer wants them to, with no internal logic at all. After the first two issues, I expected better. Loners #3 gets a disappointed and irritated 1 star out of 5 for egregious abuse of story & characters and for stealing the “laughing Green Goblin in the mirror” sequences right out of the Spider-Man movie, though at least Salieri got to see his crush, Delilah…

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