Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cosmic Odyssey, Part Four: The Final Hour

Cosmic Odyssey 4
Book Four :Death
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Mike Mignola
Inker: Carlos Garzon

Karen: Just a note before we start -I apologize for the reduced number of images in this review. Unfortunately, my TPB began falling apart in my hands, as you can see in the picture below. So to avoid having any more pages come loose, I had to be very careful and that meant making a minimal number of scans.

Karen: We've reached the final book in this star-spanning tale, and nothing less than the fate of our universe is at stake. Things are looking pretty desperate too. The clock is ticking down on an anti-life bomb set to go off on Earth. We watch the seconds pass as the parademon with a hole in his midsection and the re-animated policeman, Joe Bester, stand-by to greet oblivion. But the timer hits zero and nothing happens -no explosion. The parademon is stunned and angry. Of course it's the work of Batman and Forager.They then push the deactivated bomb over on the parademon, seemingly pinning him under it. Thinking that Bester will be an easy target, they spring on him, but he proves surprisingly tough. He clobbers Batman but Forager takes Bester's head off with his shield, revealing that the cop was actually a robot. Wow -he's as brutal as Orion. Batman's impressed with his work though. They're just about to start disassembling the bomb when the parademon comes roaring back, grabbing Batman by the arm and smashing him around the cave. He even breaks Batman's leg, and the caped crusader is on the verge of passing out...

Karen: Darkseid and the Demon are in the Anti-Life Entity's (A.L.E.)'s dimension, and the Lord of Apokolips channels tremendous mystical energy through the Demon and fires it at A.L.E. Much to his shock, the Entity shakes off the attack. Realizing he cannot dominate the creature, Darkseid decides to steal just a small bit of its essence, and then high-tail it back to his own reality. But as he makes his escape, one of the A.L.E.'s returning aspects blasts him and he and the Demon wind up back where they were, facing the Entity again.

Karen: On New Genesis, the heroes have returned and are puzzled as to where Highfather, Orion, and Darkseid have gone, as well as the mysterious Mr. Blood (aka the Demon). John Stewart wanders off, still overwhelmed with guilt and remorse over his actions that lead to the destruction of the planet Xanshi. He's not certain he can go on living with millions of deaths on his conscience. 

Karen: On Earth, it seems that the parademon is about to break Batman's neck when Forager comes to the rescue. The brute drops Batman, but Forager earns some broken ribs and is hurled aside, unconscious. Batman struggles to rise as the creature reactivates the doomsday device. OK, this sequence and the previous one on New Genesis points out one of the things that has bothered me throughout this series: there are entirely too many two-page sequences in these books. Just as you start to get into a scene, it ends, and we move on to another one. It feels like too many "quick-cuts" in a film. It's very unsatisfying.

Karen: We shift now to the Anti-Life universe, where it looks like Darkseid and the Demon are about to be engulfed by the Entity. Suddenly a beam of light hits them and pulls them away. They see Highfather, Orion, and one other -Dr. Fate! This was the mysterious friend that Batman called back in the first issue and asked to keep an eye on Darkseid. Fate states that the five of them all are connected to a different elemental source of power, and that by pooling their resources, they can yet hope to stop the A.L.E. The heroes are arranged in a star pattern he calls the "cinque of cosmic power"  and Fate then names off the different sources of energy: his is 'intellectual magics;' the Demon taps primal mystical forces; Darkseid brings anti-life to the table, turning the enemy's power against him; but then, Fate says Orin and Highfather both use the mysterious Source. Wait a minute -didn't he say that each of them was linked to a different power source? This seems like a lapse on Starlin's part. Anyway, channeling their might, the five beings deliver a tremendous blast of power against the A.L.E., forcing it back. But it's a temporary measure at best. Fate takes his allies and flees to a parallel dimension. Realizing that the A.L.E. will soon recover and gain access to that dimension as well, Fate makes a choice: he will sacrifice that dimension, creating a "mystic firebreak" to trap the creature in its own realm. So Dr. Fate is powerful enough to actually destroy an entire dimension. I had no idea. Wouldn't that put him right up there with the Spectre? Although he briefly ponders whether he has the right to wipe out a whole dimension, he does it anyway.

Karen: The group is returned to New Genesis in the blink of an eye, where the heroes are startled by their sudden appearance. Fate explains that he has trapped the A.L.E. in its own realm by destroying the dimension that bridged their two realities. Darkseid is outraged, as he feels used by Fate. He threatens the mystic, but Superman quickly steps in and tells him to stand down, or face the combined might of the assembled heroes. Darkseid apparently sees nothing to gain in a direct confrontation and storms off, and everyone's about to declare victory, when Highfather reminds them that they still don't know what has happened with Batman and Forager on Earth. Starfire wants to go back to the planet to ehlp out, but surprisingly, both Martian Manhunter and Superman shoot her down, saying where would they find them? It's a big planet. really? Superman, with all his powers, couldn't locate Batman or the bomb? You'd think he would at least try! Highfather then gravely says all they can do is wait, and hope the Milky Way galaxy isn't destroyed. I understand that the writer is trying to generate drama here but it seemed very unrealistic to me that these heroes would just sit on their hands and do nothing.

Karen: On Earth the clock is ticking -specifically, we're down to 29 seconds before the big bang. Batman can barely manage to crawl over to where the big bad alien stands before the bomb control panel, and when he gets there, he receives a kick that sends him flying. Being a bad guy, the alien has to make a speech about how there's nothing Batman can do to stop the bomb, and of course, that's when Forager comes to and attacks the creep. He's ducking and weaving until Batman tells him to forget the alien, stop the bomb. Right at the last second, the New God smashes the control panel with his shield. There is an explosion, but it's not the bomb going off. Apparently the control panel exploded, although I have to be honest and say it wasn't 100% clear from the art. Batman is at first just elated that the world hasn't been blown out of existence, but then he begins to be concerned over Forager. He calls out for him, but there's no answer. A panel showing Batman's face with a shocked expression, saying "Oh Lord!" tells us everything we need to know. The alien has been wiped out at least. Batman call for some help with clean-up.

Karen: Superman and Lightray leave New Genesis to assist Batman, while J'Onn J'Onzz goes off to find Green Lantern John Stewart, as he is concerned about him.Stewart has grabbed a gun from a trophy case, and orders his ring to fly out 20 light years and wait for him til he calls it back. If it doesn't hear from him in an hour, the ring is to go find Hal Jordan. It's pretty obvious where this is going. Stewart can't deal with his failure on Xanshi. He puts the gun to his head and holds it there for a while (3/4 of a page). Then he puts it down  and J'Onzz asks him, "Well?" He goes on to harangue him about how he obviously doesn't have the 'right stuff' to be a super-hero, as it requires making decisions and being able to accept responsibility for the outcomes of one's actions. If he can't handle that he should just shoot himself and get it over with. Tough-love, Martian-style. Of course, Stewart puts down the gun and calls back his ring. Stewart stalks off with a "Screw you, J'Onzz" and the Martian smiles, his work done. I suppose J'Onn was able to forgive Stewart, as he must have figured he'd adequately punished himself. 

Karen: A boom tube opens and Superman returns, supporting Batman, while Lightray carries a wrapped body. As the stunned heroes look on, Batman simply says that Forager gave his life to prevent Earth's destruction. Orion, as sensitive as ever, says, "Who would have thought the bug had it in him?" and Batman promptly clocks him. "His name was Forager!" Batman yells. Orion strides off, perhaps chastised, and at that moment, the group realizes that Darkseid, that clever guy, has made off with the gadgets containing the Anti-Life aspects. Back on Apokolips, Darkseid gloats over his little victory, as he has forged a piece of pure anti-life. really, what does that even mean? I think I much preferred it when Darkseid was seeking after the Anti-Life Equation. That seemed to be much more abstract and interesting than just some sort of cosmic super-weapon. Anyway, apparently Darkseid is satisfied with how things turned out. On New Genesis, Highfather tells Orion that Forager's body will be returned to the Insect Empire, and he wants Orion to accompany it. When the warrior asks why, the monarch tells him that he hopes the trip will teach him something. "Such as?" "Tolerance," Highfather replies. After a pause, Orion says, "As you wish, Highfather."

Karen: "Cosmic Odyssey" is not a bad story -but it does feel like it is stretched out far too long for what it is. It follows the old formula of splitting the heroes into small, more manageable pairings, and this too is not a bad thing. But there was nothing here that felt especially exciting or novel to me. Perhaps the biggest letdown was the decision to make "Anti-Life" yet another anthropomorphic being. Haven't we seen this done before? It felt like Starlin was turning Darkseid into Thanos here, with Anti-Life standing in for Death. The segment with Batman facing an extra-terrestrial in the Gotham sewers might have been my favorite part of the whole book, because it actually felt fun. Much of the rest of the story felt like a slog and the constant inter-cutting back and forth, with a couple of pages devoted to one set of characters and then another couple to a different set, and so on, really lead to a drawn out pace for the books. Doing this in a regular size  comic is no big deal but in a 48 page book, it pulls the pace down. I don't know that I would recommend this TPB to any but the most devoted fan of cosmic comic action.


Edo Bosnar said...

First things first: if I haven't said it before, great review, Karen - not just this one but the whole thing.

I definitely agree with your dim view of the story, although I'd probably go a bit farther: it's more than just "not bad," it's really not that good.
My main problem, as you state here (and as I stated in previous comments), is the idea of Anti-Life as an actual being or entity. That really came to the fore in this last chapter, with the rather unexciting battle against the entity. It did nothing to make the entire ridiculous concept work.
Another big problem I had with Cosmic Odyssey is characterization: like I commented on the last chapter, Starfire was off, and so were the rest of them, really. And yes, the idea that all of those heroes would just wait around for Batman and Forager just goes against everything we know about, say, Superman, J'onn, etc. Also, good observation about Starlin making Darkseid a bit too much like Thanos, here. It really does seem like a poorly-done rehash of the themes he covered so much better in the pages of Captain Marvel and Warlock.

Otherwise, I agree with you that the Batman/Forager plot-line was the only one that was really good, but not good enough to save this trainwreck.
Ultimately, the sole thing Cosmic Odyssey has going for it is the art. I found it beautiful throughout, but again, even that couldn't save what is at its core a weak story.

Garett said...

I thought this story was ok but overall a missed opportunity. Teaming up these characters in a cosmic story with Darkseid, written by Starlin? Should've been a knockout! I thought the art by Mignola was just ok--some striking pages, but at other times distant like looking through the wrong end of binoculars.

Thanks for the review Karen! I'd seen these comics here and there over the years but never picked them up until your review of the first part.

It seems to me Starlin's writing was on fire in the Bronze Age, with Captain Marvel, Warlock, Death of Captain Marvel, and Dreadstar. I haven't read his post-Bronze Age are they?

KevinFermoyle said...

Karen, sorry you had to sacrifice your TPB for this review.

Being a huge fan of Starlin's work at Marvel in the '70's, especially the Warlock saga, it is hard for me to admit that much of what he did after was simply re-working of the same themes.

Darklon the Mystic was one offering from Starlin that I would recommend. I believe it was originally serialized in Warren's Eerie magazine, later collected into a single comic by Pacific.

Edo Bosnar said...

Kevin, I definitely agree with you about Darklon. I have that (color) reprint comic published by Pacific that you mention. It contains some very solidly written and drawn stories that serve as a pretty good introduction to Starlin's earlier work.
And Kevin makes another good point: Karen, your tpb really needs some first aid. You should see if a local bookbinder can fix that up for you for a reasonable price.

Fred W. Hill said...

I got one issue of this mini series, can't even remember which one, but it didn't intrigue me enough to get the rest of it. I loved much of Starlin's work for Marvel in the '70s and early '80s but didn't get much into any of his DC material and while I enjoyed his run as a writer on the Silver Surfer mag and the first Infinity gems mini, the revived Warlock mag didn't do much for me and I really loathed the Hulk-like version of Drax.

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