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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Comic Spotlight Review: EGOs Vol. 1 - Quintessence


A galaxy-spanning threat. The universe's greatest heroes coming out of retirement. A new generation ready to stand at their backs. EGOs, a new Image book from writer/editor Stuart Moore and artist Gus Storms, uses a lot of familiar archetypes in coming up with its space-age superhero story, but EGOs is  - for better or for worse, depending on your tastes - an act of rebellion against the classic adventure narrative set-up in the book's opening pages.

The Earth/Galactic Operatives (EGOs) were once the greatest heroes around. They fought epic battles with larger-than-life villains for years before time caught up with them. Some died, others moved on, but the team as a whole has been disbanded for years. At least until Masse, their greatest enemy, returns, killing one of the old crew. Now, Deuce and Pixel, the husband-and-wife team that led the EGOs to some of their greatest victories, are left to try and recruit the best new heroes from across the galaxy to defeat Masse before he can reach the core system. But can Deuce's ego survive being on another team?

On one level, a lot of what Moore is doing here is fairly standard in the modern comics atmosphere. Set up a big, epic, action-adventure premise, and then get down into the nitty-gritty of the flawed, fucked up human lives. But Moore smartly positions this, in a way, as a criticism of both extremes. The classic adventure story that dominated the medium for so many decades is here an act of self-mythologizing from a character whose every move seems calculated to further The Legend of Himself. Go a little deeper, however, and you'll find Moore pulling the rug out from under you yet again, because that crass, calculating character who seems like our entry point into the series is largely replaced by his more moral wife, who doesn't buy into the mythology of grand good vs implacable evil - she is herself the daughter of a supervillain - but still wants to do the right thing when she can. There's some tonal whiplash as Moore rushes through two false-start premises before getting to (what seems like) the core of the series, but overall, it's smartly handled.

I'm a bit more conflicted on artist Gus Storms. His design work is top notch. Masse, the volume's Big Bad, in particular is a hard-to-define concept that Storms brings pretty brilliantly to life, but if I'm being honest, he really rose to a tough challenge here. Tasked with creating a massive cast of characters, Storms managed to build a number of visually distinct, interesting heroes. But when it came down to the action, it often seemed to lose track of where everyone was. They all wear the same outfit in space, so it's easy to lose track of them, and I've always thought that energy blasts and teleportation require a lot of precision to display coherently in fight choreography, and Storms doesn't give us enough sense of the space where the characters are to really follow along, which drains tension.

Storms also handles the colors here, and he actually impressed me far more there than he did on pencils - and I dug his pencil work for the most part. EGOs uses fairly muted colors, much like The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, but Storms focuses heavily on blue, green, and purple, rather than going for strict realism or a traditional teal-and-orange focus. The purple in particular helps make the segments in space feel more vibrant and alive, and the shift from muted greens and blues in our universe to a multiversal space thriving with bright pinks and purples made the trip feel suitably otherworldly. Storms does a great job at using color to control mood.

EGOs is an interesting idea - Legion of Super-Heroes without the nobility and Archer & Armstrong without the comedy - though it never completely came together for me in this first volume. It always felt a bit scattershot, thanks in part to the complete lack of a point-of-view character to ease us in to an often-hectic setting dominated by a lot of history we understandably don't yet know. But it also felt ambitious and weird and clever in a way I really admire, jumping in the deep end and swimming full tilt towards the finish. And, again, it's a remarkably pretty book, gorgeously colored and well-designed. EGOs: Quintessence is a bit rough around the edges, but there's a lot of charm to be found here for readers willing to play along.

The first volume of EGOs also includes a couple extras. There is an introduction from Stuart Moore, a prequel story Moore wrote on Twitter, and "Burritos, Dystopia, and the Unbroken Continuity," a conversation between Moore and Storms that originally ran with the first two published issues of the series. 

EGOs: Quintessence was released in comic shops on September 3rd, and is now available everywhere. Click here to order a copy of EGOs: Quintessence from Amazon.com
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