Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The End League.

So, about two months ago, I wrote about Knights of the Old Republic and how I had bought a run off of eBay. Well, the guy I bought it from decided to throw in a bonus issue of The End League. I finally got around to reading last week, and I'm now hooked on that series as well.

What's really interesting about the series is that it's basically the opposite of what every super-hero comic is about. Normally, the Good Guys always beat the Bad Guys and the status quo is always maintained. Well, in this series, the Good Guys have lost. What's left is The End League, and they're still trying to save the day, even when the odds are massively stacked against them.

What's also pretty cool about it is that the main character was actually mainly responsible for the way that things are. He's the big guy at the bottom of this post; Astonishman. He was tricked into triggering "The Green Event" by his archenemy, "Dead" Lexington. The Green Event ended up giving superpowers to every one person out of ten thousand. Astonishman put together a group of super-heroes called the Squadron of Righteousness to help save the planet as well as fight villains that chose to use their new powers for evil. Twelve years before the current story, most of the world's super-villains banded together and killed a majority of Squad, and those who survived went into hiding and reformed as The End League.

So it's a pretty cool concept. It kind of reminds me of Star Wars and how most of the original trilogy was about people just surviving and trying to fight back against an evil empire. It's also similar to what I liked about The Umbrella Academy in that there is a large gap in the story, so they hint at certain events that have happened and they go back and tell certain parts of the history. It also has a lot of Super-Hero archetypes that have been turned on their heads. For example, Astonishman is obviously Superman, and he caused the whole situation. He deals with a lot of guilt. There is also a Captain America type character, who also has to deal with the guilt of killing his side-kick while he was possessed by his arch-nemesis. So it's interesting how these characters would have to deal with things if they made a mistake and ended up on the losing side of things instead of always on the winning side.

Most of the story is about the team trying to survive. The world has been divided up by the major villains into territories, and they are all now slums. So the team basically focuses on surviving, and their one standing mission is to find Thor's hammer. Turns out that Thor went missing during The Green Event and is presumed dead; his hammer, which is the only thing that can turn this whole situation around, is also missing.

One kind of shocking aspect of the series (WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER) is that they kill off the main character in the second issue. That's right, Astonishman is killed by reanimated Thor and the hammer is taken by someone who has yet to be revealed. I think that was a pretty bold move by the creators, but it works because, again, this is not your normal comic book. And Astonishman will be back, well, at least in the flashbacks. So there's that to look forward to.

There's an interesting page at the end of the first issue. It's written by the writer, Rick Remender, and it basically explains the series, how it came to be, and how long it took to get off the ground. There's an interesting paragraph in there about how hard it is to develop a series about Super-Heroes outside of Marvel or DC. It took them five years from the initial idea to the first issue. (Here's a different interview with the creative team with plenty of preview art)

So, to wrap this up, I really like this series, and I'm pretty impressed with what Dark Horse has been doing lately. They're really going out of their way to break away from what they were doing for decades (licensing existing properties) and they're really taking some risks. I highly recommend The End League, the only downside is that it will probably take some work to find back-issues, a lot of shops are just now adjusting orders to demand. I had to buy issue #2 off of Things From Another World, and they still have plenty of back issues so I recommend them as a back-up if your local shop is out. Dark Horse is also releasing a trade in December, which I think collects the first four or five issues and it is moderately priced. Go out there and buy it already, I promise you, it's a very entertaining book.

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