[Matthew Sanborn Smith is a writer whose work has appeared at Chiaroscuro, Everyday Weirdness and the StarShipSofa podcast. He podcasts at Beware the Hairy Mango.]
Here’s what happens when you take E.E. Doc Smith, superhero comics and seven different kinds of speed and you smoosh ’em all together:
It’s DC Comics’ latest foray into smashing four-color space opera. (But what with computers and all today, they’re probably up to eight-color.) On one side, a classic revamped Justice League of America villain has built himself an empire spanning nine galaxies and you and I are sitting on the future site of number ten. His armies are endless, unquestioningly loyal and his elite troops have powers far beyond those of the Average Joe and Josephine.
Protecting us from a fate worse than himself is Vril Dox, the Milky Way’s biggest jerkwad and a twelfth level intelligence thanks to his dad, Superman foe, Brainiac. (Author’s note: I first typed Braniac, who I think is a super-villain who wreaks havoc while promoting regular bowel movements.) Vril would sell his grandmother for an ice cream cone and many of his followers would gladly kill him if only he wasn’t keeping worse things at bay.
To hear me describe it, it almost sounds manageable but throw in dozens more characters, a truckload of alien races, backstories which stretch into DC’s decades long history in space and a story pace that would make mortals like us puke in our vacuum suits if we weren’t allowed a month off between installments and you’ve got yourself a brand of space opera you just can’t get anywhere else.
It’s not every reader’s cup o’ java but don’t let me scare you off. Although this series springs out of a previous R.E.B.E.L.S. series and a L.E.G.I.O.N. series before that, there are enough touchstones, hints and editorial bootstraps to get you on board. You people are science fiction readers after all. Drawing story order from chaos is what you do.
We’re only eleven issues in, so get on it now. I was able to round up the first eleven in short order at my local shop last month and the first six issues will be available in trade format in a couple of weeks. Tony Bedard tells the tale and half of the issues feature gorgeous art from Andy Clarke (sorry non-Clarke, non-gorgeous artists).
There are countless pieces of cool to pick up in the run so far. Watch how space-warping creatures from the ice-capped methane sea world of Gil’dishpan (that name alone is fun) defend their homeworld. See an awesome fusion of the powers of two members of the Legion of Super-Heroes in one person. Unfortunately, Vril Dox has to blast that person to atoms before it’ll work, but hey, it’s all good. Throw in a genocide here and there, self-healing starships, a shape-changer, Captain Comet, the Sinestro Corps, the Omega Men, Adam Strange, the super-powered zombie Black Lanterns —
— *Hoo!* —
I gotta sit down and get outta this vacuum suit quick.