Monday, March 07, 2011
Except for two things.
One, my local comics shop had a President's Day sale where Magog: Lethal Force was very cheap, and two, DC let it be known that Magog had some ties to their upcoming Flashpoint crossover (an old ploy; see the low-selling Breach's "tie" to Infinite Crisis). Well, that was enough to bend my weak will. Not to mention that I'm still high enough on writer Keith Giffen from his work on the first Doom Patrol trade to give his most unlikely book a shot.
What we end up with is an interesting experiment by Giffen as to how to run a book with a truly unlikable narrator. It is not as interesting, mind you, as just about anything else you can find on the market; I say that not to be snide, but to make clear that I don't consider Lethal Force an important buy, though your results may vary. Rather, if you have Magog: Lethal Force in your hands and an hour to kill, I do think Giffen makes some attempts worthy of study.
The Flashpoint tie-in aspect, however, is quite nearly non-existent. Characters do bandy around the word "Flashpoint," specifically in reference to an underground group of arms dealers, and it must have some relation to the DC crossover since I can't believe editor Mike Carlin would let Giffen name this title's main antagonists "Flashpoint" just by coincidence. However, Magog's Flashpoint has nothing to do, at least as far as this book is concerned, with time or time travel, alternate realities, running fast, nor anything else that I believe -- in albeit limited understanding -- the Flashpoint crossover has to do with. Again, I don't intend to put down this book necessarily, but one ought not set aside Giffen's Doom Patrol, for instance, for Magog thinking you'll get the first hints of Flashpoint; if there's hints, they're cryptic indeed.
In Lethal Force's first chapter, in a way I found somewhat heavy-handed, Giffen demonstrates the two sides of Magog David Reid. On one side, Magog tracks a group of weapons dealers through Sudan; even despite that the bad guys have dismembered and enslaved Sudanese villagers, Magog's defeat of them is startlingly brutal -- this super-powered behemoth "hero" murders every one of his non-powered enemies. On the other side, Giffen shows Reid in a cafe, seemingly flirting with a married waitress and making plans for a tryst; it turns out instead that Reid has been helping train the woman in hand-to-hand combat so she might one day defend herself against her husband.
Giffen's point here seems pretty standard among anti-heroes -- Magog is hard on the bad guys, but soft on the innocent. We see this again later on when Magog takes as his sidekick the disfigured Miasma; when Miasma's zombies attack Magog, he fights, but when Flashpoint takes Miasma prisoner, Magog defends him. Giffen, come to think of it, has written anti-heroes harder than this -- Lobo, the Main Main himself. In contrast, Magog comes off as something of a softie.
There's other aspects of Magog worthy of study, perhaps if Giffen had longer on this title. Toward the end of the book, as Magog is caught in a battle between Miasma and Flashpoint's forces, the Flashpoint soldiers refer to Magog as a JSA operative on site, when through most of the book Magog has bucked his JSA credentials; this difficulty of being considered a hero even when he's trying not to be a hero would have been something I might have enjoyed seeing Magog negotiate. Also, as henchwoman Chelsea tortures the imprisoned Magog, she notes he always finds ways of avoiding her questions without actually lying; indeed, we're told, Magog doesn't lie. Much of Magog's "tough guy" persona by way of Giffen is just plain silly, really, but I admired the fact that Magog doesn't lie even to the bad guys; I think Giffen even intends that Magog is a "noble soldier" to the point of absurdity, but I thought this was a nice twist.
Ultimately, however, there's a way in which Magog challenges my overall sense of comic book suspension of belief that convinced me I couldn't follow this character long-term. Magog, for one, really dislikes Green Lantern Alan Scott, and indeed much of the Justice Society. I get that Alan is supposed to be stuffy, but if you really believe Alan is stuffy, you wouldn't enjoy the Justice Society, and I do; I'm not sure you can be a Magog fan and a Justice Society fan, and I was a Justice Society fan first. Second, at one point when Miasma reveals his scheme, Magog thinks about how boring it all is. Now, super-villains revealing their schemes might be boring, but if Superman thought that way every time Lex Luthor opined, I'd have trouble following Superman into danger -- it challenges my suspension of belief that there is danger. For Magog to be this irreverent -- and not in a comedic Lobo way but in a kind of mean-spirited way -- spoils my fun.
Now, no doubt Keith Giffen is a savvy enough writer that he could be presenting an irreverent anti-hero Magog now, with plans to find Magog as a "traditional hero" at the end of the arc. To an extent, this could be like saying "I don't like Jack Knight because he's a jerk, so I won't read Starman" -- a true example of missing of the point. But, we know as is that the Magog title doesn't last (Scott Kolins takes over before cancellation); even "anti-hero turns good" seems a rather played out arc to me at this point; and to an extent I wouldn't want to read a "good" Magog -- that's not who the character was created to be.
I want Magog to remain exactly who he is ... I just wouldn't necessarily have kept picking up his series.
[Contains full covers. Printed on glossy paper]
As always, I'm open to other opinions; if you really dug Magog: Lethal Force, please be sure to chime in and let me know what you enjoyed.