Or – “I’d Rather Be With Someone For The Wrong Reasons Than Alone For The Right.”

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Loners, as a concept, is troublesome. I’ve harped on it before, but having a superhero comic on the premise of NOT BEING a superhero kind of defeats the entire purpose, forcing the writers to jump through all sorts of hoops to give us a good story. Since comic books are, essentially, all second act with no finale (the better to make Batman last for 70 years) the creators of this title has bitten off a pretty big chunk that may not swallow easy. Previous issues have been all over the board, and this one is par for the course, but as we wind up to a close, am I more pleased with the title?

Lone1.jpgPreviously, on The Loners: Banded together from remote galaxes, come 6 of the most angstiest mutants, non-mutants, and alien hybrids of all time! Lightspeed! Darkhawk! Spider-Woman IV (or possibly III, who knows?) Turbo! Green Goblin IV! Hollow (The artist formerly known as Penance)! Each seemingly has their own darn good reasons for not wanting to put on their costumes again (notwithstanding the fact that Tony Stark will arrest ’em) and most of them have failed in their willpower checks to avoid doing so. A run-in with dealers of the drug MGH led to a fistfight with Nekra, who used to date a man who looked like a monkey, and then the revelation that women were being kept in tubes and harvested for their mutant genes (the key ingredient of the MGH drug.) Phil Urich, the former Green Goblin, has seemingly been adopted by the mysterious Penance, and the in-fighting has reached epic levels. Meanwhile, since their “support group” meetings are public knowledge, Nekra has tracked the kids down, waltzed right in the door and started swingin’…

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You’d think that Darkhawk (the most chronologically experienced Loner other than Julie) might have better combat skills. She wipes the floor with the powered members, sending Johnny and Mattie flying, before being confronted with… Phil Urich? Somehow I think that the Goblin madness has claimed another victim, as powerless Phil steps up to try and protect Mickey Musashi (Turbo, whom he thinks is his girlfriend.)

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I don’t know how I feel about this moment. I mean, it’s obviously been coming, with Chris (Darkhawk) Powell playing the Blane to Phil’s Ducky, but the crazy laughing is a bit much for me. Crazyman goes down, and Nekra reaches out to grab Mickey by the throat, holding her above her head. As Nekra prepares to crush the former Turbo’s throat, she is suddenly felled by some sort of energy blade, wielded by a complete stranger. Have you noticed how many characters have just sort of shown up so far in this title?

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Yes, obviously… Because no one who just arrives with mysterious powers and a lack of memory could ever be in any way lying or dangerous, right? This introduction reminds me of that moment in an RPG where an old character has died, and the GM wants to introduce your new player character in a dramatic way… By saving Turbo, she’s immediately sympathetic to the reader, sez the theory, and thus will be more easily accepted. As for the Loners, Chris and Mickey are so happy to be alive that they accidentally out their relationship to the rest of their teammates.

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Part of me wants to feel bad for Phil, but honestly, they’re not in high school anymore. At a certain age, you have to stop ASSUMING that someone is your girlfriend and actually do something revolutionary like communicate your attraction to her so that she can tell you yes or no. There’s pretty much no excuse for his rage here, since he and Mickey have (from all I can tell in the series) a relationship that seems entirely group-oriented with nothing that indicates that she’s into him. Johnny (Ricochet) remembers that he saw the new arrival in a tube in the MGH lab, and she tells him that she can’t remember anything. Telling them that all she knows is that her name is “Namie,” she goes silent, until Mickey interrupts. Whatever is going on seems to be related to the “deal” Mickey made with the Japanese woman two issues ago, and the team members confront her about what actually was said. Mickey refuses to answer, and the sudden sound of sirens breaks up our love-fest, forcing Julie Power to admit to her friends that she’s NOT registered with the SHRA. Julie quickly exits with Namie (short for Namiko?) in order to stay outta jail…

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Oh, good. It’s almost like when a black actress would come on the Love Boat, and the episode would invariably be about ‘Love For Isaac!’ I sincerely hope that this isn’t going where it seems to be going, into the ‘magical love interest’ territory, a device that’s annoying enough on it’s own without the whole homosexual angle. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind this development for Julie, I just think it should be handled the same way as any other romance… That’s even assuming that I’m reading the scene right. Before I walk away from this, one last whine about pacing: isn’t the penultimate issue a little late to be introducing a new character? I’m sure that we’re using this as a possible springboard to an ongoing, but in a book where we already have a mystery girl, adding another just convolutes things more. Speaking of the girl now called Hollow because Warren Ellis took her old name, how’s she doing?

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Oh, she’s busy cowering in fear from Willem Dafoe Phil Urich’s descent into madness, please and thank you. As for Johnny and Mattie, the dynamic duo return to Johnny’s place so he can catch a quick shower after the fight. As soon as Johnny is out of sight, though, Mattie Franklin starts digging through his stuff, searching for something… Well, this is new. After tossing his living room, Mattie is surprised to find Johnny standing in a towel watching her. He asks if he can help her find something, and she replies “Protection,” and throws him onto his bed. Oooookaaaay…

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Cassie St. Commons, you say? Well, that’s interesting, ’cause she was in the latest issue of Ms. Marvel, as a captive of the Puppet Master… Of course, that’s also her on the wall there, using her “Dusk” powers to become a shadow. Wonder what A-Hole let that one through? Cassie did have a pretty big crush on Johnny back in the ‘Slingers’ series, though, and having a love triangle seems to be de rigeur for this book. As for our other couple, Mickey and Chris try to come to grips with her near demise at the hands of Nekra, but Chris keeps referring to the superhero thing as “our life,” causing Mickey to angrily call him a hypocrite. He reminds her that she doesn’t have powers, and she reminds him that HE doesn’t either, he just has an amulet of alien origin. They angrily snap at each other, and Mickey decides to bring their argument before the rest of their friends, actually treating it like a support group. Unfortunately, once they reconvene, Phil isn’t feeling apologetic…

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If that transition felt a little sudden to you, you’re not alone. It feels a bit rushed in the actual book, too. Phil flies off the handle into a full-on jealous rage, roaring that Mickey should be his. “We had a plan, Mickey! Don’t you remember? I got you a job out here, and we were gonna change the world!” Okay, faithful Spoilerites, here’s an object lesson from the old dude: NEVER, EVER assume that because you do something for or give something to a woman that it means that she’s your property, or that she owes you her love. It doesn’t work that way, and it never will. Nor does putting the smackdown on her current boyfriend, stealing his orb of power, and transforming into his secret identity (if that were ever to apply to your situation.)

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Mmm… This ought to be interesting. Darkhawk is pretty much the most powerful Loner, I wonder if the others will be able to slow him down? Especially without the help of Turbo, who doesn’t want to use her armor any longer… This issue of Loners really kind of bothered me. Not only did it not advance the existing plots all that much, it introduced MORE new story elements with little or no prelude. I don’t mind Phil finally snapping and going crazy, we expected that from Day 1, but the introduction of Namie was pretty abrupt, and the love-triangle with Chris, Mickey & Phil didn’t seem adequately set up.

I know it seems like I’ve been down on Loners, and honestly, I haven’t been terribly impressed with the last few issues, but this one really cements it for me. C.B. Cebulski has some really good ideas, but they feel like they’re all being shoehorned into the limited series format (kind of like Omega Flight, really.) The art, by Karl Moline, is slick and a little 90’s, perfectly in keeping with most of the characters origins, and does the bulk of the storytelling work here. Even so, I can’t see giving Loners #5 2 out of 5 stars. Too much of the issue DIDN’T work for me to fully offset the things that did.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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.

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12 Comments

  1. Mark I.
    September 13, 2007 at 2:56 pm — Reply

    BOOT.

    Did Cebulski ghost-write “Revenge of the Sith?” It would explain a lot about Lil’ Goblin.

  2. Brent F.
    September 13, 2007 at 3:58 pm — Reply

    If you’re a father and your super-powered semi-dead daughter is missing… why the hell would you go to Mattie Franklin for help? When did she become a private detective/manhunter/bounty hunter/whatever?

    I’m very disappointed with this book because during the late 80’s and early 90’s, when I was a kid, Darkhawk was one of those characters who I loved because he had a great concept, cool powers, and an awesome costume, but never seemed to get a descent writer or large following. Turbo was also one of my favorite New Warriors.

  3. September 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm — Reply

    My wife picked up the first couple of these based on their appearnce in The Runaways. I agree fully when you say it is like they shoe-horned the idea into a mini. Worse yet, I wonder if it isn’t just another one of the copyright/trademark protection books, characters not used for a while and need to be used to secure the names.

  4. Rowan
    September 13, 2007 at 7:01 pm — Reply

    Boooooo

  5. September 13, 2007 at 10:39 pm — Reply

    I also wonder about the wisdom of calling an issue narrated by a Japanese woman with a super suit “Chinks In The Armor.” But that’s just my politically correct mind.

  6. September 14, 2007 at 12:47 am — Reply

    Welll…to be fair, Mattie DOES have experience in running away from her Father, so she would know a little about it…

  7. Baal
    September 14, 2007 at 1:00 am — Reply

    Chinks In The Armor. Heh. I just got that.

    And may I say that I hate Darkhawk being portrayed as a complete boob? If you were going to portray him as being absolutely nothing like any other appearance he’s ever made, why feature the character? If Cebulski needed someone to slot into the story a certain way, he should have dumped Darkhawk and replaced the character with someone more appropriate. And isn’t killing Chris the only way to get the amulet? Ugh. Blink was cool tho’.

  8. Josh
    September 14, 2007 at 8:16 am — Reply

    Mattie Franklin might have decided to get in the P.I. game after her appearance in Alias as a way to deal with the trauma she wwent through. Makes sense to me.

  9. Mugiwara
    September 14, 2007 at 12:47 pm — Reply

    I liked this issue, like the othes, despite I hoped more clues about the mysterious asian girl.
    I don’t have any problem with DH being owned by Nekra: as Mickey points, she uses Loner’s number against them. Also, Nekra is not a noob either and it seems that her strenght increase when she’s angry (and she seemed really pissed).
    Concerning Mattie researching Dusk, it’s possible that her father thought it was a good idea to ask help from a teenage super heroin (who could use her relations, and if needed spy other heroes as she does here).
    I don’t think the Julie/Namie scene implies anything else than Julie trying to be friendly with a girl who is completely disoriented. Not that it would be bad…
    The Mickey/DH moment was pretty strong. I regret that there won’t be more issues to explore their relationship and Turbo’s feelings. Also, I hoped to have Mickey’s feelings about the New Warriors.
    I liked Phil Urich being mad, but the cliffhanger was a bit too classic for me. This said, I can’t wait to see the consequences for the team and Penance’s reaction.
    Also, Moline is the perfect artist for the book. Hos art is dynamic, the design of the characters is good. Character’s face are sometimes a bit weird but they are realy expressives.

    One of the better comics now. There is more in one signle issue of Loners than in 3 issues of New Warriors v4. A shame it’s only a mini. Cebulski seemed to have still plenty to say about the characers.

  10. Joe
    September 15, 2007 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    When I saw the energy blade, and the vaguely Asian chick behind it, I thought for sure her name would be given as “Revanche.” I mean, no one else besides Psylocke has an energy blade like that. Except for her non-British, fully Asian doppleganger (or cyborg/clone. Can’t remember) Revanche.

  11. Starleafgirl
    September 15, 2007 at 11:45 pm — Reply

    “Worse yet, I wonder if it isn’t just another one of the copyright/trademark protection books, characters not used for a while and need to be used to secure the names.”

    I doubt that. I mean, look at Hollow. Why create a book for that purpose then feature a character that Marvel cares so little about that they’d rename her to Hollow and give her actual codename, “Penance,” to Robbie Baldwin?

    And yeah, Nekra was using the close quarters against them. As far as Phil goes, it seems like he’s completely delusional about the relationship he and Mickey have, heh, and was so even before he really snapped in this issue.

    I liked this issue; I mean, I liked what it DID show us, I just think it would have turned out better if there were more pages to space out the transitions and build up some of these plots that get thrown at us in this issue. As it is, we just have to assume this stuff has been building up off-page since their Runaways appearance and between issues of Loners.

    It is kind of disappointing that instead of continuing what’s been establish, more gets dropped in our laps, and now with only one more issue in the mini to go. Still, can’t wait to see how it turns out — and how well (or not, as the case may be) it gets resolved.

  12. MikePriest
    September 24, 2007 at 7:05 pm — Reply

    Ugh. This is where this series fell off the rails for me.

    Phil Urich “descent” into madness pretty much happened this issue and this issue alone. There were a few hints that he might be worried about the Goblin legacy earlier, but this was way too much too fast.

    As a fan of his series in the nineties, and seeing what a hero he is over in the alternate reality of Spider-Girl, it was simply disheartening to see Phil reduced to this.

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