Because I enjoyed the first trade in this series so much I had to find out what happened and how the story ended. But because this title is a little older I had a little trouble tracking down the second trade, but with a little effort you can find almost anything on the internet.
Peter Milligan is a comic British writer who has written on nearly every title out there. Looking though his bibliography I think he has written for most of the major publishers and on a number of titles. I don’t think I have read much if any of his other works, but his body and sheer volume of work is solid. I could not tell if he was famous for a particular series, but if you are big comic fan I am sure you have read some of his other works.
This story picks up where the first trade left off. The super powered beings are causing chaos across the US. The Russian Dolls, as they are called, have attacked and destroyed all of Las Vegas. The newly activated Max and his counterpart Joe are Americas super powered beings and are the only ones that can stop the Russians. The problems is that both are psychologically unstable and feel betrayed by their own nation. As the US is ravaged by the Russians there is also a race war brewing in the south that threatens to tear the nation apart, as well as several different agendas and backstabbing that is going on behind the scenes.
As much as I enjoyed the first trade in this series I am dumbfounded as to how it all ended in this trade, and the twists and turns the writer took in the second book. I really had no expectations and more or less wanted to see how the story, that was set up so beautifully in the, first played out. Well I finally have my answer.
For all the good ideas and plotlines in the first book, the second falls quite a bit short. Had I known before reading that it would take a very political turn I may have steered clear of the whole series. I am still trying to understand why the writers took this story in that direction. To me it seemed that everything was set up for something completely different, but they decided to go this route. Going down this road I felt the book lost all its cool points and uniqueness, which is probably not the correct word, as the story was very unique. It is hard for me to fathom the complete 180 from the first book to the second. As I write this I cannot get over how and why they did what they did.
Despite me not liking how the story played out I will say that I did enjoy the characters in the book. They are very diverse and have such different goals that it does make for quite the drama watching them all interact. Even the superheroes I felt were quite different from the stereotypical hero. Both Joe and Max reminded me of the Plutonian from the Irredeemable series. They both had some serious trust and mental stability issues, but when you see what they have been through it is hard not to blame them.
The ending was rather odd as well, especially when you think back how the entire story started. Again I am still wondering how the story ended up where it did. I also didn’t like how the story just ends abruptly, as there is still so much more to tell. The second book continues to build the story, and albeit a very dark America along with it. It gets very political almost to the point of the start of a dystopian society story, but stops short of continuing into what happens next. I do not think that this was the intention of the writers, theirs was strictly a political one, at least that is my opinion. If they had intended the story to be the beginning of a very strange and bizarre pre-apocalyptic and dystopian story I would certainly have enjoyed that much more. But again I do not believe this was their intention.
The artwork is the same in this one as the first trade, so I have to give credit here. Most of the time the art style changes, but at least it is consistent across the story, so I applaud them for that. I am going to post the same artwork review I did for the other book, this is a little lazy I suppose but it is literally the exact same style with the same artist. I do not see the point of re-reviewing it, you can check out the review of the first trade here.
The artwork in this one I was not the biggest fan of. It is highly and I mean super stylized. I have no idea how they even did it, although I think it could just be in the coloring technique. The more I look at it I cannot figure it out, but there is heavy use of dark shadows and using the black backgrounds to build a lot of the scenes. It also looks out of focus and very grainy which to me looks like there is less detail but when you look closely at each scene that is not the case. I would love to know how C.P. Smith did this but love it or hate it, you have to respect his creative ability. The colors are very drab, mostly dark colors that are faded. This is just an observation and honestly goes well with the artwork but I did think everything was overly dark. Smith used way too much black throughout the whole book, while I think this does set a serious tone it could be lightened up a little and keep the same tone. I will add that I did like the individual issue covers, they are very cool and very well done.
This is a tough one to recommend. The first part of the story is really cool, and sucked me in. However, the second half and ending was something that really failed to live up to the awesome beginning. With all that being said I did like all the characters in the story, they are very different and very real. I guess I will say that if you are looking for a politically slanted book or a very different outlook on the superhero genre, perhaps looking for something just odd, you should certainly check this out. Otherwise I think that you may want to spend your time elsewhere. Although, despite the lackluster and just plain odd ending, I still recommend reading the first trade, just make up your own ending. It can’t be any worse than what they wrote!