You’ve got a handful of pages to prove your concept, to introduce your character, to get your hooks into your reader and keep ‘em coming back for more. How do you handle it? In The Art of the Start we look at first issues, be they new originals, fresh story angles, or total reboots. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
I’ve never been much of a DC fan. I can’t really put my finger on why. It probably has to do with the fact that I always gravitated towards Marvel’s heroes when I was younger and now, as an adult, I’m just way too overwhelmed with the baggage of their continuity. Between all the different Lanterns and Crises… I get a bit of a headache. Most of the Panelteers are big advocates of just diving in to a series, but that’s really difficult for me. My day job causes me to feel compelled to know all of the facts before I start reading something. That’s a bad compulsion to have as a comic reader, but I’m working on it.
That being said, I try to at least read all the benchmark DC books. I loved New Frontier, Batman Year One, Dark Knight Returns, etc. (I’d love to read more of those, send those recommendations my way if you’ve got them.) I also dig reading DC stuff that isn’t bogged down in the heavy continuity. (Send some more of those recommendations my way as well.) So, when I saw All Star Section Eight solicited, I knew I had to check it out. Garth Ennis, John McCrea, and a bunch of weird stuff. That’s right in my wheelhouse.
In anticipation of this book, I did some Wikipedia digging to see what the deal was. I learned that the team’s name was a reference to the military term for “mentally unfit for duty.” I also learned that its membership consists of a group of loser heroes by the names of Sixpack, Bueno Excellente, The Defenestrator, Dogwelder, Friendly Fire, Jean de Baton-Baton, Flemgem, and Shakes. How could this be bad!? I was a little distraught to learn that they made quite a number of appearances in the book Hitman by Ennie and McCrea, a book that I haven’t read but I would really like to (especially now). Fortunately, it seemed like I still might be able to “get it” without having read that book. I decided to give it a whirl.
So, did this book live up to the hype that I created in my head, given that I had little to no background on this group? You bet it did! Plot-wise, the story is a bit thin but the absurdity more than makes up for it. The book starts off reintroducing us to Sixpack, former leader of Section 8. He’s now sober and living life as a well respected art critic. A little mixup at the bar reintroduces him to alcohol and he once again becomes the degenerate, failure hero. With an ambiguous threat looming, Sixpack tries to put back together the old team. Unfortunately, a few members have passed since the team was together, so it’s up to Sixpack to recruit.
After gathering a group of 7 amusing misfits, Sixpack decides that they need a real heavyweight to round out the team and Batman would be perfect. The remainder of the issue is dedicated to Sixpack trying to convince Batman to join the team while Batman tries to argue his way out of a parking ticket. One of my favorite parts of these scenes is that McCrea straight-up lifts iconic Batman poses from classic Batman stories. Pretty brilliantly executed. Not being super familiar with DC, this made me wonder how many other gags I may have been missing throughout this issue. But I definitely caught some classic Neal Adams and Jim Aparo poses. The ripoffs certainly fit the tone of this book.
Overall, this is a must-read. Despite a close to nonexistent plot and complete lack of diversity, this book brings something to the table that DC has been completely lacking since the new 52… FUN. If you’re on board for some Garth Ennis non-sense and you don’t take your superhero books too seriously, this is a book for you. It’s already clear from issue one that Ennis and McCrea have a special synergy when it comes to storytelling and I can’t wait to see where this goes next. I always love reading a book when I dig both the writing and the art. I’m sad that this series is only set to run six issues but I’m looking forward to go longbox diving in the coming months to collect a complete run of Hitman.
Did you read All Star Section Eight #1? What did you think?
What other bizarre DC titles should I add to my ever-growing “to read stack”?
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