RETRO REVIEW: Battle Of The Planets – Jason #1 (July 2003)

by

Or – “Not Everyone Gets To Be The Red Ranger…”

When it comes to your Japanese five-person super-teams, there are a few rules of thumb.  You get a leader, usually the upstanding hero and/or rookie.  You get a comic-relief character.  You get a girl.  You get yourself big guy.  And, to round out the group, there’s often a mysterious loner, the brooding bad boy outcast, the guy who has an axe to grind, but still quietly respects the other members of his group.  This is a story about the first of those loners…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

BOTPJasonCoverBATTLE OF THE PLANETS – JASON #1
Writer: Munier Sharrieff
Penciler: Edwin David
Inker: Erik Ko
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Colorist: Jen Chan/Andrew Hou/Herbert Kwan/Shane Law/Calvin Lo/Kevin Yan/Simon Yeung
Letterer: Martin Barnes/Dennis Heisler/Robin Spehar
Editor: Jim McLauchlin/Alex Ross/Chris Carlisle/Scott Tucker/Peter Lam/Phil Smith
Publisher: Top Cow/Image Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5.00

Previously, in Battle Of The Planets:

BAAATTLE! 

OF!

THE PLAAAAANETS!

“G-Force, five incredible young people with superpowers! And watching over them from Centre Neptune, 7-Zark-7! Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth’s entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!”

In the 90s, there was a huge spate of revived cartoon properties, from He-Man to G.I. Joe and back, and none was more welcome to me than Battle Of The Planets.  During a recent M.S.P., we checked out the first trade, which reminded me of my favorite member of G-Force, Jason (aka G-2) and his solo adventure.  We open with a devastated Jason opening a mysterious parcel, one that makes him collapse to the floor in disbelief.  “It’s believed that every man has his own hell,” he voice-overs.  “This, without a doubt, is mine.”  Cue the flashback…

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Jason heads into Utoland (BoTP takes place circa Next Sunday, AD, you may recall), where his Uncle Silvio runs a family business.  Given that Jason’s birth family are a Sicilian quasi-crime family, things get visually interesting quickly…

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There’s a weird dichotomy in this issue, as the art style is based on the cartoon, which kids of my age remember in its sanitized all-ages American state, but the use of cheesecake is rampant throughout the book.  Not off-putting (unless you really hate cheesecake, I suppose) but certainly a little dissonant for me.  In any case, Jason hasn’t come to Uncle Silvio to chat, but to call in the old man’s connections to assist with a personal mission…

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Of course, Alex Ross and the creative team were big fans of BOTH versions of the cartoon, as shown in Jason’s alias (Joe Asakura is his name in the original Japanese Gatchaman.)  His new boss is a legendary arms-dealer and shadowy underworld type, known for his connections to the Assassin’s Guild, a man who has a LOT of enemies.  Things quickly escalate, and Jason is forced to use his considerable driving skills to save the boss’ bacon…

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The battle quickly gets out of control, and Jason is forced to roll the limo to keep everyone from dying in a fireball, but recognizes one of the assassins, a masked woman who remembers him from his youth.  She taunts him about his fear, his uselessness, and ends her jab reminding him that he’s “just like [his] father…”

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… SO HE SHOOTS HER.  Or, at least, shoots at her.  That…  is hardcore.  Though his uncle warns him that people are moving against his new boss (people including Uncle Silvio himself, mind you), Jason gets a quiet invitation into Monterro’s inner circle, the break he’s been waiting for…

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Aaaand, now he’s been introduced to Charles Bronson.  That’s weird and awesome all at once, and it serves as a perfect visual cue that we’re looking at a stone-cold badass.  The art in this issue is very manga-inspired, but it totally fits with the source material, and it’s incredibly expressive and very animated (in all senses of the word.)  Of course, even if he’s playing Donnie Brasco, Jason is still a super, leading him to use his insider knowledge to take down one of Monterro’s arms deals.

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Even while working over the goons, though, he can’t help but wonder about the connections between the mysterious assassin and his murdered parents, seemingly the reason that he’s undertaken his off-books undercover mission in the first place.  That’s where “Charles Bronson” comes in…

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His first mission for the Assassin’s Guild is a simple one:  Blow away a scientist whose opinions are unpopular with his boss.  Unfortunately, that scientist has a very familiar face…

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Is even a science ninja skilled enough to get himself out of this situation?  He is if he has the time to rig up a smoke grenade, and foul his partner’s kill-shot…

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But Jason is still missing a few pieces of the puzzle, which suddenly fall into place as he realizes that the attacks on Monterro and Uncle Silvio might be related, and that the presence of Devil Star mercs could pin that relationship on the alien overlords of SPECTRA!

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AAAAND the dominoes start to fall, as Silvio’s “dancers” are revealed to be the agents of Devil Star, and the woman who recognized him earlier reveals WHY she remembers him:  She killed his parents…

…who were agents of SPECTRA.

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She makes a fatal error, though, promising that his corpse will be analyzed, and his memories used to find and kill Chief Anderson and his teammates, mocking him with images of his surrogate family’s impending demise…

This proves to be a bad move.

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Holy… crap.  After blasting down the most skilled assassins that the secret alien armada has to offer, Jason finds that Silvio has already been murdered, and one of the last links to his biological family severed forever.  Worse still, he has been given reason to doubt that family…

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The interesting part of the issue is seeing the dark underbelly of the shiny future world seen in BoTP to date, the revelation that minor criminals and assassins still ply their trade even as super-scientists battle an alien invasion, and this story is (weirdly) a crime drama set in a future-superheroic setting, with a main character who is the Ur-version of a Power Ranger.  Still, it’s a visually interesting issue, with some unorthodox but still interesting layouts, and super-consistent artwork.  Battle Of The Planets: Jason #1 has some cliche elements in play, but uses its resources wisely, and tells an offbeat story for the BoTP property featuring their most interesting member, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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