Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #238: Welcome to Tranquility Book One by Simone & Googe

Another day, another random book from my unread shelves. Today's choice is particularly random: a book I never would have bought myself, and didn't really know existed. But it was in one of the post-flood care packages, so it went up on the shelves, to surprise me at unexpected times. And then I finally read it, because why not?

Welcome to Tranquility was a failed superhero series from 2007-2008, an extension of the Wildstorm universe, so it's probably officially one of the less-popular DC earths now. Welcome to Tranquility, Book One collects the first storyline of that series, the first six of what was eventually a dozen issues. It's entirely professional, thoroughly modern superhero stuff, written by Gail Simone and drawn by Neil Googe. And it was no more superfluous than a million other superhero series, but this one failed to catch fire: primarily because it couldn't be really about the famous characters that the Wednesday Crowd already loves.

Tranquility is a small town somewhere -- the Wikipedia article on the series says it's in Oregon, so we'll go with that -- where all of the famous "maxies" from WWII went to retire when they got too old to keep fighting crime, or committing it. Since no history in a superhero comic is ever dead, they're all -- except the one who died tragically in the origin story, a la Jetboy or Silver Agent -- still alive and remarkably hale seventy years later, when they must all be pushing a hundred. There is An Explanation for this deep in this particular story, but the real reason, of course, is that comics fans can't give up the myth of the Golden Age, and profoundly misunderstand how generations work.

Anyway, since this is a revisionist superhero story, it has to begin with the death of a major hero (cf. Retro Girl), and so Mr. Articulate is stabbed with his own sword-cane in the middle of a busy fight scene in the obligatory small-town restaurant where everyone spends all their time. Sheriff Thomasina "Tommy" Lindo -- one of the few characters in this volume not to have superpowers, and probably coincidentally also one of the few characters of color -- sets out to find his killer, which of course rips the lid off all of the long-simmering secrets and lies of this corrupt little town. (cf. Peyton Place)

So Simone is working with a lot of cliches here: most of her "maxies" are vaguely familiar, from the not-Captain Marvel to the not-Doctor Strange to the not-Silvana to the not-Crypt Keeper to the not-Nick Fury. The mayor of the town, though, is somewhere in the vague territory between not-Batman and not-Superman, which counts as original in this company. There is nothing in this first volume of Welcome to Tranquility that will surprise anyone who's been reading superhero comics for more than a year and who has two brain cells to rub together. But, on the other hand, it knows what it is and does what it does entirely professionally and with energy and style. If you read a lot of superhero comics, you'll probably want to look up this one: it does a lot of things that you presumably like to read about, and does them well.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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