Review: Telos trade paperback (DC Comics)

January 9, 2022

 ·  4 comments

Given the dubious place Jeff King’s Telos was starting from anyway, that it should be even decent is an accomplishment. And it is decent, in the sense that no aspect of this ill-conceived spin-off of King’s Convergence is egregiously bad, though starting in medias res as it does, it also never finds its footing nor draws us to care about Telos and his conflict. King makes a wise choice in the early chapters to tie Telos to a similar cosmic DC Comics property – but the fact that this particular team of space rebels was already as forgotten as Telos was destined to be makes this seem a misguided choice. Notably some of the artists here went on to significant Rebirth work, but there aren’t many reasons to pick up Telos, and most readers probably won’t.

[Review contains spoilers]

Telos misspells the villain Mongul’s name as “Mongol” twice and then spells it right, which unfortunately gives a sense of the kind of care editorial was taking with this book. Those errors come in the last two issues of the book, where indeed Telos begins to go off the rails. Telos encounters the pre-Flashpoint 1990s Parallax Hal Jordan, which is notable but King achieves so well the obnoxious voice of that character that it’s hard to appreciate his return. There’s a strange moment where King’s Parallax blames Telos for imprisoning him in a cell when in fact, in the story in question by Tony Bedard, Jordan imprisoned himself, suggesting perhaps King’s unfamiliarity with Convergence’s tertiary material. Furthermore, in the hurried end to this book, Telos foils Parallax’s plans apparently just by thinking hard or through some power we’ve never seen Telos exercise before.

In the first of the other four issues, Telos simply spars with his former commander Brainiac for most of twenty-two pages, which is a gutsy choice by King but isn’t much to get the series going. In the second, third, and fourth, however, King has Telos team up with Stealth and Captain K’rot, late of Keith Giffen’s Threshold, and also Captain Comet. That sets up a fine premise, probably not far off from Threshold itself, of a band of misfits fighting for interplanetary freedom (the anthropomorphic K’rot, a take on Captain Carrot, is enough to warrant Guardians of the Galaxy comparisons).

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

King achieves banter that’s funny without grating, and had Telos continued, it might have worked as a kind of pseudo-LEGION/REBELS title, not unlike Threshold. Whether pairing Telos with Threshold’s K’rot is as strong a strategy for this title continuing as, for instance, guest-starring the Justice League in the first six issues is worth considering, however. And there are mistakes here, too, including Comet referencing Hardcore Station, a place and a miniseries that this continuity’s iteration never visited. A climactic scene has Telos confiding to Brainiac’s daughter Techne that she is a twelfth-level intellect equal to her enemies instead of a tenth-level intellect as she had been supposedly lead to believe – except that a few chapters earlier, it is Techne herself who tells this information to Telos.

There’s nothing wrong with the art in Telos, which in a coincidence of timing actually gets a variant cover by Neal Adams plus one by Jonboy Meyers. Among artists here are Carlo Pagulayan, who would later make great contributions to Christopher Priest’s Rebirth Deathstroke. Also present is Stephen Segovia, who impressively goes from this title’s space battles to Metropolis-set interpersonal intrigue on the original Rebirth Action Comics.

Obviously the stone that Convergence got rolling for DC Comics gathered a lot of moss, in that we see in Convergence the earliest hints of Rebirth. At the same time Convergence was among the nadirs of DC’s New 52, the culmination of two weekly series that ended with almost no consequence and itself taking what was supposed to be a multiverse-spanning epic and focusing it mainly on Warlord minutiae. That’s a hard thing for Telos to come back from – and indeed it doesn’t – though with the opportunity to be more focused and character-based than Convergence, Telos is perhaps the better story. Despite clear attempts, King is never able to tie Telos tightly enough to the fabric of the DC Universe for it to matter. It ends with the main character marooned alone on a planet; I’d be impressed if some writer takes pity one day and gets him off of there.

[Includes original and variant covers, layouts and sketches]

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Convergence had nothing to do with anything except its own event and Earth 2: World’s End (and of course by extension, Earth 2 itself). I still don’t get how that wasn’t perfectly clear.

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  2. Randal YardJanuary 13, 2022

    And Telos was Arak, or something? I just didn't get it.

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    Replies
    1. I had been wanting Arak to come back for years, and now I'm sorry he did...

      Delete
  3. I agree it was better then expected , but moved Downhill quickly--they seemed to have lost interest

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