REVIEW: Guarding The Globe #1 (of 6)

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Or – “What To Do When You Have 300 Superheroes In Your Head…”

From the very beginning of Invincible, Mark Grayson has lived in a world full of superheroes.  His father was Omni-Man, and the streets were patrolled by the Teen Team, the Guardians of the Globe, and more.  Since his own costumed career began, Mark has discovered that most of these heroes are just a bunch of guys and girls, and seen many of them die horrible in pools of super-red blood.  Now, the Guardians are short-handed, and new leader Brit is forced to go to the well of Comic-Book Cliches for assistance…  It’s time for LEGION TRYOUTS a recruiting drive!

Guarding The Globe #1
Story: ROBERT KIRKMAN & BENITO CERENO
Art: RANSOM GETTY
Colors: FCO PLASCENCIA/RON RILEY/THOMAS MASON
Letters: RUS WOOTEN
Published by Image Comics

Previously, on Guarding The Globe:  The concept of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” banding together to defeat those foes they couldn’t handle alone is an old one, dating back to AT LEAST the formation of the JSA in the 1940’s, and possibly back to the Argonauts or Gilgamesh.  But, in the interests of sounding less pompous, we’ll say the JSA.  When the greatest heroes of the Image Universe (Bob Kirkman Version) came together, they formed a powerful (and oddly familiar) group of seven warriors against the unknown.  Omni-Man cut all that short, killing Darkwing, The Red Rush, War Woman, Aqarus, Martian Man and the Green Ghost, and giving The Immortal the worst night of his life since he saw “Our American Cousin.”  The team was reformed out of the bits and pieces of the old Teen Team, led by Robot, but their ranks have suffered losses as well, with the deaths of Shrinking Ray, Rex Splode and the new Darkwing, as well as the retirement/quitting of Atom Eve, The Immortal, and Dupli-Kate.  When legendary hero Brit was convinced to lead a new team, things should have gotten better, but as Ben Grimm once pointed out, it’s always darkest before it gets pitch-black.

We open with a moment that seems very familiar to me, as Invincible and the Guardians (Robot, Brit, Bullet-Proof, Monster-Girl, Black Samson and Shapesmith) fight against another invasion from the aliens known as The Flaxans, a race that experiences time differently than we do.  Robot realizes that the aliens have decades between their attacks, and will eventually come up with a way to overwhelm Earth, and leaps through a space-time portal with Monster-Girl as the aliens flee their butt-kicking.  Back at GotG secret headquarters at the Pentagon, government spook Cecil Steadman is irritated to lose yet more team members, and finally comes to the realization that should have been obvious:  If his team really going to guard the entire world, they may end up needing more than seven guys.  To that end, he starts a very specific campaign, convincing the normally costume-recalcitrant Brit to put on a super-suit giving him strength and flight powers, and sending him out to get some more mans.  At the same time, we get a glimpse into the private lives of Black Samson, Bullet-Proof and Shapesmith, a trio that may be our comic central core.  The playboy, the homeboy, and the child-like alien interact awkwardly, reminding me of “The Specials,” one of the better superhero movies of recent years.

After a quick bit wherein a villain is pulled out of prison by a succubus wearing boy-shorts (?) we find that The Immortal and Dupli-Kate aren’t participating in the GotG reunion due to her pregnancy.  Brit is sent to Nepal as part of Cecil’s new initiative (world-wide hero teams for world-wide defense) and finds a freakish being called Yeti fighting an army of animated ice-men.  He kicks in his new powers (glove-jets to simulate super-strength, and flying booties) and the two of them make quick work of the icicles.  Brit makes his pitch, and Yeti says yes, but his personality is a little bit weird, cycling back and forth between stoic professional and fanboy.  Whatever Yeti’s “secret” (hinted at in the teaser trailers that Kirkman sent out earlier) is, I’ll bet it’s related to him having more than one mind in his enormous rubbery head.  Vampie-in-boyshorts takes Mr. Liu from prison to her boss, a faceless monster known only as Set, who is ready to make his evil move on the world.  “I feel his blood rain down on my face as his world burns around him,” snarls the monster as he sets his evil plan in motion.  So…  that’s bad.  We wrap up the book with a one-page tale of the Fake Guardians of the Globe (Invincible, Spawn, Rick from Walking Dead, Barack Obama and Harry Potter) and a fight against a Sarah Palin lookalike who wants to pass off Hitler’s birth certificate as Obama’s.  It has the cute kid-stuff art of Chris Giarrusso, but suffers badly in being spectacularly not funny…

The biggest problem for Kirkman’s work in my mind is the sheer number of “analogue” characters we have in play.  The original Guardians were the Justice League, the Teen Team the Titans.  Robot began his life as a Cyborg stand-in, while Yeti resembles nothing so much as Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch.  Invincible himself is a pretty cool character, but even he is roughly “Superman’s teenage son” in concept.  If I can get past the fact that Black Samson used to wear Doc Samson’s costume, and Monster-Girl looks like The Abomination in a skirt, I can enjoy this book as a light-hearted romp with world-saving undertones, reminding me of Marvel comics in the late 80’s.  Brit is a character long on cool concept and short on conventional superhero badassery, something that can be easily seen in his adoption of a costume.  Moreover, adding flight and strength to his invulnerabilty just turns him into another flying brick character, something the Invinci-verse has a plethora of.  Robert Kirkman’s habit of writing a series of seemingly-unrelated vignettes and then tying it all together leater is in evidence here as well, and hopefully co-writer Benito Cerano shares his skill in pulling the threads together and tying them off.  Still, after all my reservations, I find myself enjoying this book, and really wondering what sort of interesting things are in store with the other guys we’ve seen in promotional pieces and in the shadows, which is a big tick in the plus column for Guarding The Globe.  The art is clean and ineresting, the book has a stunning cover, and after reading all of this week’s purchases, it’s one of the most memorable in my stack.  Guarding The Globe #1 (no word on why the title changed, but I’ll bet that Marvel still using ‘Guardians of The Galaxy” might have had some input) is a nice piece of comic-book work in the fun Invincible vein, and earns 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s an interesting read, old-school in all the right ways, and it reminds me of the comics of my childhood…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Does repeated use of the “archtype character, i.e. a clear analogue to another character or “Superman done right” bother you in your reading?