Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artists: Marco Rudy, Cliff Richards
Collects: Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1-6
As they usually do with events, DC decided to push out a few "aftermath" mini's in the wake of Final Crisis. Four of them, this go around. A funny thing I noticed in discussions is that the four tend to split people right down the middle. The average seems to be that everyone has two they loved and two they hated, with no one mini being universally hated.
Well, I can tell you this; Escape is not going to be one of my two.
So Tom Tresser, otherwise known as Nemesis, is drugged and abducted from his home. He wakes up in an unfamiliar place where the very laws of reality seem to have no hold. He has only one plan. To escape.
This is a tough review to do. Part of that has to do with being unsure that I really have anything to say that Iceberg Lounge and Collected Editions didn't say already; obviously, opinions are going to overlap from time to time, but I find myself skittish about reviewing something if I don't feel like I've got anything new to say. But another large part of the problem is that part of me just doesn't even want to think on it. This book is kind of like the kid who's a perpetual screw-up, but tries hard enough that you can't hate him even if you don't want to be around him because he's so freaking odd.
This is a hell of a difficult read. There's a very real feeling when reading this that what you're witnessing is just chaos birthed onto the comic page. But the difference between the good kind of difficult read and the bad is what lies in between the lines. The best kind are those that aren't linear, but at least have something under the hood. With similarly unconventionally told stories, there are meanings to everything and nothing is by accident. But this story feels the exact opposite.
The trouble is that the story doesn't seem to have a real plan in mind. Some writers have proven that the general framework of storytelling is very flexible as long as you get your point across and give everything the reader needs to figure it all out. Escape is way off on the other end of the spectrum, seeming to hold its cards too close to the chest and choosing to be complex for the sake of complexity. It's like a maze with no real path to the exit, the only way to get there being if you teleported to it.
The end result is one of the most unfortunate attempts at an nontraditional narrative I think I've read in a long while. Which is sad, as not everyone in the business really chooses to experiment. What makes the whole thing even more disappointing is that there were points in the book - like, say, when you realize what's caused the "jumps" from one scene to the next - where it seems like things are headed somewhere and that there's a solid foundation beneath, but eventually that feeling gives way. If there was a plan or point to all this, the writer tried so hard to make Escape a different kind of read that he completely obscured it from view.
Luckily, there is a positive quality or two to speak of. The cast of the book is good. Pretty much all of DC's spy characters and organizations are present, from Suicide Squad members to Checkmate on down the line. I loved Greg Ruckas Checkmate series, so even just seeing some of the characters again is nice. There's also a fair bit of fun continuity mining; though I'm not sure just what the hell the Kirby stuff had to do with anything aside from the fact that Final Crisis used it too. There's also some fun "meta" moments, as when it's pointed out that Nemesis has been nothing but a supporting player in someone elses stories while over the course of this story becomes something more; I'm pretty sure that's a clear jab at the then recently ended relationship he had with Wonder Woman that made him a regular presence in her book.
It's also worth mentioning that this volume at least attempts to follow the precedent set by its associated event. It's an unfortunate fact that aftermath stories tied to events don't always have a lot to do with what the associated event was trying to accomplish. Grant Morrison is known for being unconventional in his writing, which I've felt is a large part of why he's popular and why he also has detractors. This mini seems to try to follow his lead; I appreciate that the effort was made, even if it didn't work out.
The art's not so bad. It's held up by Marco Rudy, Cliff Richards and Neil Edwards, the last of whom would go on to do some of Johnathan Hickmans Fantastic Four issues. Despite the number of artists, they do a respectable job of mimicking one another, making it tougher to notice when there's an artist change without looking at the credits. There's the occasional exception - sometimes you may notice a face doesn't look exactly the same as previously, but for the most part it's seamless. If you're going to have more than one artist on a miniseries - which, mind you, I'd prefer not to happen - this is generally how it should be done.
The Score: 5 out of 10
It's unfortunate, but this mini feels like a spectacular failure. There's complex and then there's confusing; and this book is definitely the latter. Skip it. It's not worth the trouble.