by Michael Hutchison
In October, DC's comics disappeared for a week to be replaced by "Tangent" comics. Tangent was a concept by Dan Jurgens, inspired by Julius Schwartz. Julius Schwartz started the Silver Age of comic books when he took DC's 1940s characters and introduced new characters of the same names but with new identities and origins. Jurgens gathered several writers to create a slate of comics which would use DC character names but with all new concepts.
Obviously, this isn't exactly what Julie Schwartz did. I mean, the Silver Age Green Lantern, the Flash and Hawkman still followed the original idea. Sure their jobs, names, and costumes were different, but they were still comics about a dude with a power ring that could do anything, a guy who could run fast and a man with wings who uses medieval weapons. The only hero who was a "name-only" character was the Atom. But who says Jurgens can't do something original?
To make things more interesting, the Tangent Universe has a different history than our own. The Cold War became an open conflict and there was a nuclear exchange resulting in mutations like the Sea Devils.
Frankly, the Tangent comics ye olde editor reviewed just didn't trip my trigger at least, not enough for me to buy the whole set at $3 a pop! Each issue was 38 pages long and the artwork, generally speaking, was very impressive.
I think the big problem for many readers was: What's the point?
These comics can't possibly be spun-off into ongoing series, given that their names are being used by the current characters; when Julie Schwartz intro'd The Flash and Green Lantern, the previous characters of those names had been out of usage for many years, and that's a substantial difference. The only, really enjoyable part of the Tangent comics was spotting the inside jokes (usually references to DC characters, such as a bomb called "Red Tornado".)
Metal Men - In the Tangent Universe, the Vietnam war ended in 1968 and the Cold War became an open conflict in the nation of Czechoslovakia. The Metal Men were a covert military group, so named because they came back from every mission unscathed. The members were nicknamed "Hawkman," "Lobo," "Gravedigger," and "Black Lightning." The other two members, who apparently were never popular enough to earn nicknames, grew up to be the president of the US and a member of the Nightwing organization.
The team is sent into Czechland to retrieve an unexploded Soviet weapon known as a "Red Tornado." After they find the device, the team is divided as to its disposal.
The artwork on this book is excellent; the writing is standard. The storytelling is good, despite the fact that the plot is so predictable I could see the ending coming by page five. It's not a terrible comic book, it's not a great comic book if falls into that little category which the French call "Marzesque."
Nice Touch: "Impulse" is a soft drink.
MY RATING: 5
Flash - The first baby born in space grows up to be a teenage superhero with light-based powers. She can move at the speed of light and create holographic constructs. Her mother is one of those dreaded "studio moms" whose life is devoted to making her daughter a celebrity. Her father (who never married her mother) is actually a Nightwing agent. He has been charged with the duty of apprehending (and possibly killing) his daughter in order to get back in good graces with Nightwing. His every waking moment is dedicated to the capture of his daughter. This makes him the more likeable of her two parents. (Wait until the first word balloon out of her shallow, horrendous mother and you'll understand.)
Maybe it's just that I'm a writer, but my biggest problem with this book is that I could see the writer's intentions. The Flash struck me as just a super-powered version of the movie Clueless with her inept Dad as a kind of Wile E. Coyote character. When I finished the book, I read the notes and saw that this is exactly what Todd Dezago was doing. The lack of originality in this book's concepts really bugged me. (Of course, to be totally hypocritical, I loved Keith Giffen's old Heckler series and that was nothing more than Bugs Bunny in a superhero costume!)
Flash's father is the best character to come along in a while; his appearances in this book are a delight. Flash herself is an annoying, rich, spoiled brat. As I said, she's just Alicia Silverstone's character in Clueless and I HATED Clueless. This is still the best Tangent book I've read, but it could have been a lot better if the Flash's character was a real person instead of a stereotype. Stereotypes can work for supporting characters and villains, but not the main character.
Nice Touch: Sue Dearbon (known to most readers by her married name of Sue Dibny) is a celebrity interviewer.
MY RATING: 6
Secret Six - This is the Tangent Universe's JLA, consisting of Flash, The Atom, The Joker, Spectre, Plastic Man and Manhunter. One of these you've already met, so I'll introduce the other half of the "Hidden Half-Dozen."
Atom is the "Superman" of the Tangent Universe.
Joker is a young woman fighting crime with her warped sense of humor.
Spectre is a young man in a ghoul costume with the ability to become immaterial.
Plastic Man is a malleable, clear, green, plastic "robot" mentally commanded by a man in a coma.
Manhunter is a female bounty hunter with a robot killer dog.
The plot of this comic has the six characters teaming up to combat Dr. Aquadus, a living ocean. Atom, Joker and Flash aren't used much at all, aside from being on the scene. Plastic Man is an interesting character and I'd like to see more of him. Spectre is rather two-dimensional (I'm not sure if that's a pun) in the sense that we don't really get to know him at all. Manhunter is a cold-blooded killer and seems out-of-place in Tangent's version of "The World's Greatest Heroes."
Nice Touch: Brande Laboratories presumably named after R.J. Brande (Legion of Super-Heroes).
MY RATING: 4
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This piece is © 2000 by Michael Hutchison.
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