With the world’s infrastructure in tatters, a hard-scrabble poverty has set in in many places and among people who never expected they would fall to such a state. Heroes have died and deadly villains rampage. All the while Metatron, the hero of heroes, is suffering from an ill-timed existential crisis.
Not your standard punch-em-up.
Story looks to be building to something interesting.
Characters not compelling.
Purely shock-value violence.
Previously in “The Victories” There’s just nothing good going on. No power, no food and very little hope. And it looks like some folks are using the situation to take over the country.
IT DESPERATELY WANTS TO BE MORE THAN IT IS
“The Victories” #2 is a book unsure of its identity. Ostensibly it’s supposed to be one of those postmodern superhero tales with which we’ve become so familiar since “Watchmen” came out in the late 1980s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with writing one of those stories, but the problem with “Victories” is that, at least up to the end of this issue, the story doesn’t have the—I guess this is the best word—gravitas to support its ambition.
Metatron, the Victories’ leader, is weak and unsure of himself; his name refers to the voice of God, so those are some character traits of which he’d like to rid himself. He’s second guessing his decisions, becoming more and more detached from himself all the while wondering what got him to this point. He’s a real, flawed person who happens to have superpowers. There’s no way to miss that, though, because the story repeatedly pummels the reader with this information. As the book rained blow after blow of informed attributes upon me, I read Metatron’s internal monologue through bleary eyes and realized his introspection was much more superficial than enlightening. Maybe this is because he’s not yet ready to learn the truth about himself, but the shallowness of the exercise made it feel less like character progression and more like time wasted. The discussion of his dreams and how they relate to a Fibonacci sequence has some promise, though, if it bears out in a later issue; the dream analysis on its own could have been a strong B-story or even a whole issue’s A-story if written well enough.
The rest of the book hovered on the slightly higher side of the good/bad line. The issue’s primary villain is a one-dimensional shadow of Magog from “Kingdom Come,” whose chief contribution to the story is shock-value ultra-violence, but the characterization is redeemed by the revelation that a Shadowy Cabal is controlling him. It’s this cabal that most interests me for future issues because despite their pretentious Biblical and Shakespearean references–a shortcut writers often use to give characters more intellectual depth–it’s clear they’re masterminding a grade-A Devious Plot.
One thing particularly caught my eye: A brief interlude with James, a newly homeless man who’s trying to walk across the country to get back to his son. In his six panels I found him to be the most compelling character in the book and I hope we see more of him. Honestly, with his story of crossing on foot this broken land rife with superpowers to reunite with his family he’s a much more relatable and compelling protagonist.
ART FELT ROUGH, UNPOLISHED
Sometime during the 1990s I remember reading an “Entertainment Weekly” review of “Duckman,” the USA Network animated series starring Jason Alexander. Its animation was done by Klasky-Csupo, who are probably more famous for “Rugrats” and a host of other Nickelodeon cartoons. There was one part of that review that’s always stuck in my mind and burbles to the surface whenever I encounter art such as that in “Victories.” I don’t remember the quote, but it was something like “They want you to think its edgy because it looks like the whole thing was cut out with rusty scissors.” In other words, style over substance.
Art is subjective and isn’t generally something that makes or breaks a book for me as long as the story is strong, but this is a case where stellar illustration would have helped to elevate a lackluster story. As Oeming did both the story and the art, I wonder if this is a case of the work suffering from spreading himself too thin.
BOTTOM LINE: PASS
I clearly didn’t care for this book. It took a trope that’s been played many times before but offered nothing unique to differentiate itself from what’s come before. I know there’s been a fair bit of buzz about this book, but I’m just not seeing it. It’s supposed to be an “adult” book, but aside from a few cerebrally mature bits here and there, it’s just a retread of the broken-and-misanthropic-hero fad that Oeming uses as an excuse for outlandish violence. Most importantly, the story felt generic and flat and the characters couldn’t bring me to care about their fates. Maybe it will hang together better in a trade–if you want to check it out, then wait for that. 2 stars.