REVIEW: Idolized #4 (of 5)

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Or – “Superheroes-As-Celebrities Now Gets It’s Own Section In My Comics Library…”

The story of Joule has, thus far, been interesting, positing a world much like our own, where superheroes compete to see who can get the best corporate sponsorships and Q-ratings.  Now that the competition enters its final stage, will she be able to transition from wannabe to hero?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

Idolized4CoverIDOLIZED #4
Writer: David Schwartz
Penciler: Pasquale Qualano
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Josh Reed
Editor: Vince Hernandez
Publisher: Aspen Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Idolized:  Joule is a young hero with a secret, a woman whose only goal is to win the Superhero Idol competition so that she can get a shot at Stasis, the super-villain who killed her family.  She’s gotten lucky, played a little dirty pool and given it her all, but she’s finally made it to the final three of the competition.  Does she really have what it takes to be the next big superhero thing?

SUDDENLY!!!!

Even having read issue #3, the beginning of this issue is kind of shocking, as Joule finds her powers shut off in mid-flight by the unscrupulous producers.  That, combined with the opening sequence as “S.I.” fans gather to be close to a fight they cannot see, serves as the satire of reality competitions (albeit with a pretty lethal bent, given that she could easily have died in a fifty-foot fall without powers.)  Joule falls rather provocatively, followed by some sexy clothing damage as she hits the treeline, which I found a bit problematic for the narrative.  While she tries not to die, her fellow finalists fight it out below, and a hero named Trooper nearly gets his spine severed for his trouble.  The other female finalist, The Present (a name that’s either awful or brilliant, depending on the moment when I think about it) uses her attractiveness to her advantage, with another couple of panty shots in the battle, and the devotion to rendering the female forms in the issue really starts to work against the narrative in a distracting way.  With some quick thinking, Joule wins the fight and becomes the next Superhero Idol!

Of course, that’s only page 12…

A LOT COMPRESSED INTO ONE ISSUE…

Given the somewhat leisurely pacing of the previous three issues of this book, I’m a bit shocked to find the competition ending 1/3 through this penultimate issue, but we quickly see Joule graduating to the big leagues as a member of the Powered Protectors.  That name is unequivocally bad, and the heroes themselves are sketches, with a Batman-type, a Superman-analogue, etc.  Within the space of a few pages, uber-bad-guy Stasis returns, the heroes leap into action, and the entire team is defeated thanks to Joule’s inexperience.  Most puzzling is the part where Joule herself keeps thinking that her actions are stupid, and how she needs to stop, all the while bulling her way forward into a fight that she cannot win.  The real kicker for me, the nail in the coffin of pacing, comes in the final panel, as the fallen Joule lands in front of a broken store window display full of televisions, all performing a huge information dump explaining that the heroes have fallen, Joule’s secret is out, and that her reputation is destroyed, all seconds after the hero battle ended.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  THIS ISSUE JUST CAME RIGHT OFF THE RAILS…

I get what the creators were going for with this issue, but in the haste to set up for the big finale next issue (which the last page promises will feature Joule gathering the Top Ten finalists of the show to fight Stasis, which is kind of spoilery), the creators let their story come to pieces on them.  Joule’s self-doubt, which was believable in previous issues, comes across as bathos here.  Her triumph in the competition is more about genre-savviness than super-heroics (which I like, as it supports the reality show subtext) but the issue immediately transitions to include all the clichés of the big super-team clusterschmozz battle to save the Earth, and there just isn’t enough space to get everything into the issue in a coherent and constructive manner.  Idolized #4 doesn’t quite get itself together, especially in contrast to the previous three issues, rushing to get the pieces in place for the endgame and damaging the overall narrative in its haste, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall.  I’ll still be back for the finale, in the hopes that the overall narrative gets tied up in a satisfying manner, but this issue just doesn’t quite gel as a single chapter…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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