Or – “More Morrison Madness Through A Glass, Darkly?”

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Many attempts have been made to make the DC Universe more “international,” from the Global Guardians waaaay back in Superfriends, to Doctor Mist and the Dome to taking the Justice League International, but most have been about as realistically multicultural as the International House of Pancakes (home of the Frawnch Toast Stix.)  In 52, though, Grant Morrison introduced China’s national super-team, The Great Ten, who have bee in the background of the DCU every since.  Now, these heroes take the center stage, and get a chance to prove that they’re more than just interesting concepts and funny names…

Great Ten #1

GT2.jpgWritten by Tony Bedard
Art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau

Previously, on Great Ten:  Initially assembled as a political stunt, The Great Ten represent a new era of Chinese Democracy, Axl Rose notwithstanding.  China’s first foray into the community of the supernature is a diverse one, containing nearly a dozen “super-functionaries” of differing origins and powers.  Socialist Red Guardsman is an atomic powerhouse.  Thundermind’s studies of Buddhist runes give him an array of mental and physical powers.  Ghost Fox Killer comes from a hidden society of mystic women, and brings a full spectrum of combat powers.  The Celestial Archer’s arrows do more than just pierce their targets.  August General In Iron wears a metal hide and commands the team in combat.  Immortal Man In Darkness lives his life bonded to a symbiotic fighter ship of alien origin.  The Seven Deadly Brothers may be one man, may be more than half a dozen, but all of them (him?) are masters of hand-to-hand combat.  The Shaolin Robot is a mystery to even his teammates, but his battle prowess is inarguable.  As for the Accomplished Perfect Physician, it is said that he can heal your injuries with only a simple whistle, and his abilities seem almost limitless.  Together, they serve as the party’s metahuman force, a Justice League for the Chinese Century, but their actual stories have remained untold.. until NOW.

We open with a brief history of Chinese culture and thought, as well as the first shot of all ten members of the team together that I can recall.  (Anybody got their 52 TPB to prove me wrong?)  The action cuts to Tibet, a dozen years ago, with the tale of a soldier who simply doesn’t belong in combat.  Having volunteeed for the People’s Liberation Army to try and SAVE lives, Corporal Yao Fei is overwhelmed by the reality of army life, and ends up deserting his unit when what was a firefight quickly turns into a massacre.  He staggers away through the streets of Gyanze, badly wounded, and awakens in the care of an old woman who tells him that she has saved his life.  He stammers that he killed a man today, an innocent man, and thus doesn’t deserve her help, she quietly responds.  “I know you did…  His name was Tenzin Cering.  You murdered my son, you mindless tool of the state.  Now YOU will carry his burden.”  She kneels before a rug which bears the same sigil as the tunic of the Accomplished Perfect Physician.  Flash-forward, as the party asks the Physician to go with his teammates and quash a demonstration in Tibet.  He is angered by this, reminded of the battle a dozen years earlier, but is informed that “even a super-functionary must sometimes remind the party of his loyalty.”

Flashing back again, we see Yao Fei again awakening, as the old woman explains that the man he killed was to become the latest incarnation of the Accomplished Perfect Physician, and that he, in his callous disregard for human life and destiny, will now take her son’s place.  Fei is thrown THROUGH the throwrug and hears the voices of the previous A.P.P.’s telling him of their powers.  Seven hundred years of experience, of magic, of truly sacred knowledge floods through him all at once.  Cut forward a year, and we see the Physician in action against Chinese soldiers again, gaining the attention of the August Captain In Iron (who hadn’t yet gotten his promotion.)  The two superhumans clash both physically and in philosophy, which is still the case in the present.  As they try to stop the riot, August General, Ghost Fox Killer and Celestial Archer respond with lethal force, while Accomplished Perfect Physician tries to make them stop.  The battle ends quickly, and A.P.P. clashes with his teammates again, leading to a flashback to his initiation to the Great Ten, during which all his teammates question his abilities and loyalties.  Back in the present again, the team nearly comes to blows before a portal opens and eight beings appear, claiming to be the Chinese deities of myth.  August General In Iron immediately calls a Great Ten emergency signal, as the being claiming to be the Jade Emperor speaks.  “The only threat to this great land is the corrupt regime that you represent,” he tells the August General.  “But THAT is a problem we will now correct.”

My first read of this issue was a troubled one, as the shifts in place and time made it difficult to follow, but on a second reading (one that, admittedly, came after more sleep and with less stress) this is a nice little story.  Tony Bedard’s writing and I have a tumultuous relationship, even in the best of times, but here we have the inertwining of an origin for Accomplished Perfect Physician and the inrodution for what will presumably be the threat for this miniseries.  There’s much of interest here, with the real-world conflict between Tibet and China in the forefront, and the revelation that the “Robin Hood” A.P.P. was actually August General’s most pervasive combatant.  Scott McDaniel’s art is always interesting, and his stylized, blocky figures work in this context, makin the characters seem to be almost woodcuts out of an ancient scroll or something.  It’s a strong opening, albeit one that takes a bit more effort to get into than your average, garden-variety comic book story.  I believe that DC’s intention with this book will be that each member of the Ten will get their origin told, once per issue, and as such the story will be extremely difficult to balance.  It’ll be interestin to see if Bedard can pull this one off…  Still, this issue is a strong start for the miniseries, as Great Ten #1 earns an impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars.  If nothing else, I have to love the names of these characters.

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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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