Back from the Dead.
This week, DC begins its revival of the original 1940’s anthology run, National Comics. Anthologies were the model of comics during the golden age and it was within these standalone stories where our superheroes of today were conceived. Action Comics #1, an anthology, gave the world Superman which would change not only the history of comics but the shape of American culture as well. Seventy or so years later, this format of comic does not carry the same weight as it once did; in this case, serving as a means of reviving characters rather than creating them. Fittingly, the premiere issue sees Jeff Lemire bring back Kid Eternity with a brand new origin.
Christopher Freeman, a young, morose man, works in the coroners division of the police department where he conducts autopsies. His methods however are not entirely conventional. Chris can tap into the lost souls of the dead and revive them for a single day in order to help him solve the mystery of their death. It’s a cool concept and works well for the character. Lemire paints Chris as a lethargic and breezy individual, living on the coattails of his father’s successes. His nature gives the impression he is almost undeserving of his powers but this helps to humanise the character and opens a few laughs along the way.
It’s a satisfying standalone story but one that never really grabs the reader. Undoubtedly, Lemire’s strength is his characterisation and engaging dialogue. The harmony, or lack thereof, between Chris and the revived soul of Mr. Quinn is the highlight of the issue as they quarrel all the way to the solution of the crime. The crime itself is one that’s been seen on Law & Order enough times to make its own special edition box set. Despite an intriguing ending, there are not a lot of tricks here but a number of unanswered questions. When and if we see another Kid Eternity book however is a little vague, with no indication from DC on a potential follow up.
Art duties fall to Cully Hamner and Derec Donavan and they bring a bold and moody attitude to the book, reminiscent of Rafael Albuquerque’s work on American Vampire. It’s yet another book added to DC’s shelf which retains the tone and imagery of a Vertigo title. Dark, muted colours convey the morbid nature of the story and the iconic Kid Eternity glasses are ubiquitous as they mysteriously shift in colour throughout the issue and give Christopher his own diverse sense of identity.
It’s hard to tell what DC really has in mind for this anthology series. Whether it is truly an outlet for writers to be creative and tell quick and unique stories or whether it’s a potential test track to further exploit vintage characters is yet to be seen. If you’ve got some old, fan favourite characters, keep your eyes peeled, you may be seeing them resurface again on National Comics, who wouldn't want to see Plastic Man back on the shelves!
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