DC Primal Age 100-Page Comic Giant #1 – Marv Wolfman, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Writers; Scott Koblish, Jerry Ordway, Phil Winslade, Brent Anderson, Tom Derenick, Artists; Chuck Patton, Keith Pollard, Pencillers; Karl Kesel, Jose Marzan Jr, Inker; Tony Avina, Wendy Broome, Carrie Strachan, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorists
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Medieval/Fantasy Superheroes?
Ray: One of the oddest projects DC has done in a while, DC Primal Age 100-page Comic Giant tying into the new Funko toy line is available exclusively at Target. An Elseworlds set in a medieval fantasy world inspired by 1980s cartoons like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (which DC also has the comic license to), it reinvents the Justice League as magical warriors and brings in a trio of old-school talents – Marv Wolfman, Louise Simonson, and Jerry Ordway – to flesh out the world’s heroes and villains in six short stories. Reminiscent of some of the more bizarre 1990s Elseworlds, it deserves credit for originality – but quality-wise, results are mixed.
Marv Wolfman gets the biggest opening segment and the closing chapter of this oversized issue, and he has to do the heavy lifting with the world’s mythology. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work to his advantage especially in the opening chapter. A dense chapter that introduces Batman and Wonder Woman and pulls them into a quest for a series of magical orbs that sank Atlantis and threaten to do the same to Themyscira, it’s rather talky and ponderous and the art doesn’t help – where’s Aquaman’s neck? There’s a lot of action, but it feels like we’re coming in midway through. Better is the closing chapter, which explains more of the enmity between Batman and Superman as they team up to face a marauding Bizarro.
Louise Simonson, whose classic 1990s Superman stories are still fondly regarded, gets two of the strongest chapters. First is the origin story of villain Mr. Freeze, here elevated to one of the core villains along with Joker and King Shark. Simonson casts him as a tragic dark sorcerer with influences of King Midas, and the fantastical elements don’t take away from his human story. I also really liked her Batman-focused story, which reveals Batman’s origin as the masked lost prince of the kingdom, and introduces a unique version of Lucius Fox as a blue-collar mage who has renounced dark sorcery. It feels like this Batman is the key character in this universe, and the most distinct of the Justice League members.
Jerry Ordway’s two stories also nicely expand the world, starting with one he writes and draws starring Wonder Woman. Pitting her against Solomon Grundy, the story recasts Grundy as the unlikely guardian of a group of disabled children cast out by the corrupt authorities. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Ordway’s Joker story. Joker as a criminal mastermind is a bit of a stretch – he’s more of a chaos agent – but here it works. His unpredictability makes him even deadlier, and he even shows some vague soft spots for a mistreated orphan boy victimized by a cruel mayor – while never being anything less than dangerous.
As a whole, this is an odd comic, but it works as a spotlight for a trio of veteran creators who should get more work.
Corrina: This is definitely a story geared to the younger ages, starting with the fight that begins the issue, with Batman and Wonder Woman yet on opposite sides. The dense mythology is connected to Apollo’s sun globes and it’s tone is closer to the classic Justice League/Justice Society team-ups in the 1970s, rather than anything recent.
That means, in the main story, a great deal of action, a little bit of the villains winning, then a triumph.
The back-up stories give these characters room to breathe, focusing on the Trinity, and they’re definitely worth reading. Ordway’s WW story is classic Diana, driven to help, but also with the compassion to know when not to force a solution. The Joker story was odder, as I was thinking the kid trying to steal Joker’s “wheels” was a stand-in for Jason Todd. It’s a good story but this tale is more violent than the rest of the issue. I’d rate it much closer to PG-13 than the rest of the issue, which is G to PG.
Simonson’s stories are gems. One, concerning Batman or “Prince Bruce,” has terrific art by Anderson, especially the close-ups of Bruce’s face. The second is the haunting Mr. Freeze tale, which somehow evokes Freeze’s Batman Beyond appearances, despite that being the future, and this being a fantasy past.
Wolfman has been writing the Raven, Daughter of Darkness mini-series, but from their work in this, I have to ask why Simonson and Ordway also do not have regular writing work from DC.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.