Overview

Lord Havok and the Extremists #1

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Lord Havok and the Extremists #1

Credits

  • Words: Frank Tieri
  • Art: Liam Sharp
  • Inks: Rob Hunter
  • Colors: Dave Baron
  • Story Title: The Arrival
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 31, 2007

Lord Havok’s debut in Countdown #29 was, I admit, not a thrilling one.  His character was out of the ordinary, in the sense that his inclusion in the crossover epic was random, his world an obvious dystopia but otherwise left unexplored.  Yet after those so-called new “Challengers” came and then left, Havok’s point and purpose and even substance were left completely blank, which was not an effective way, I must say, to introduce an original mini-series with no built-in fan base to speak of.

Nevertheless, Lord Havok and the Extremists #1 proved a satisfying read, far more so than the characters’ appearances in Countdown.  The world of Earth-8 is one that plays with Marvel’s current continuity and takes it to an extreme excess; it’s The Ultimates and The Authority as filtered through the events of Civil War and The Initiative.  In a nutshell: government-funded and organized heroes quickly take over the United States, execute their competition, and build a totalitarian war-state.  Think Watchmen as taking place inside V for  Vendetta, a despotic, nearly Gothic background colored by honest-to-goodness riffs on Marvel spandex icons.

The unique quality of Lord Havok, then, comes from the book’s focus, which isn’t, ultimately, on the heroes themselves, but rather on the title characters -- Lord Havok and his group of “freedom fighting” guerilla fanatics.  While Earth-8 is indeed jam-packed with take-offs of Marvel headliners, Havok and his lieutenants are an odd assortment of Marvel-esque super-villains, each willing to do what any major baddie would for a cause they believe is just.  The book, then, is bloody, violent, unpredictable, and, yes, extreme.

Hit-or-miss comic scribe Frank Tieri manages this mini, crafting a world that should be as fascinating to readers wholly unfamiliar with the source material (perhaps even more so, as such ignorance would make the book all the more abstract) as it will be for hard-core Big Two fans.  The story isn’t unique, and that’s its one major drawback: in this day and age of dime-a-dozen hyper-violent dystopic take-offs of classic pulp situations, Lord Havok doesn’t come across as anything new, or even, honestly, creative -- not in concept.  But its distinctive focus and execution allows the book a flavor to call its own, at least to a point, and looks to fill a gap sorely missed since Doom 2099 disappeared from off comic store shelves.

But the biggest pull, the reason I picked up this book in the first place, in fact: Liam Sharp.  Anyone familiar with his work on Testament, or his stints on such classics as Man-Thing or Death’s Head II, will know that any book bearing his stamp is one to ogle at.  Havok is more in the style of his Marvel UK days, as the look is pure gritty super-heroics and sci-fi weirdness, but that’s hardly a criticism.  The pages of Havok are everything its premise calls for; they exude a god-like sense of violence and power and pretension.  Bolstered by inker Rob Hunter and color-meister Dave Baron, the artwork is over-the-top dark magisterial  eye-candy.

I was excited when I heard of this series because I thought it represented DC's first offer of a single new universe that wasn’t based on a past Multiverse concept or popular Elseworld title.  Unfortunately, it is, apparently, an already-established alternate universe, from past Justice League adventures.  And even then, it’s not a wildly original concept in its own right, being yet another deconstructive take on current super-hero trends, but hopefully DC will, in the end, find the wherewithal to offer up something completely different, because a Multiverse made up of 52 worlds could really use some of that.

For now, though, Lord Havok and the Extremists is an intriguing enough new setting to tide us over.  If you know your Marvel, there won’t be too many surprises here, but it’s not entirely derivative.  The villains get to be heroes and in their own villainous ways, and that, in and of itself, is always wholly (if not wholesomely) entertaining stuff to dig into.  This first issue alone should be enough for anyone to determine whether they’ll be sticking around for the proceeding seven issues.  I know I will be, both for the story, which is well done, and definitely for the art, which is phenomenal.  My recommendation?  If you have some spare change, this is this week’s issue #1 to spend it on.

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