By Todd Allen
With the recent release of Youngblood #71, the relaunch of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme universe is in full swing. I looked at the amazing Prophet and surprising Glory when they came out. Now it’s time for the rest of the batch.
Youngblood #71 is the latest launch. It’s written by John McLaughlin. No, not John McLaughlin from The McLaughlin Group, John McLaughlin who wrote the films Black Swan and Man of the House. So right there, you know this is going to be a little different. Art is by that Liefeld guy and John Malin (who will be the primary artist in a Liefeld-esque style).
Youngblood has a little meta to it. When Geoff Johns relaunched Aquaman, he went a little meta in the first issue and tried to address a lot of the Aquaman jokes you see on places like The Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Youngblood plays it deadpan with a few of the jokes about them you might see on a message board. Everyone hates them, they have PR problems and there’s a reporter assigned to write an article about them and fix those problems. There are gags about how oversexed the characters are. To be completely honest, it reminded me of some of the second string superhero groups in The Boys, but less over the top (no drugs or weird fetishes) and played with more of a straight face.
It looks like there might be a more serious overall story arc, as something’s happened to have Shaft replaced (and his hapless replacement is source of amusement) and something else that would go into spoilers for the last page.
I like the wit in this one. The question is how much of a plot is going to go along with that wit. We’ll know in an issue or two. I absolutely wasn’t expecting this comic to have a sense of humor about itself and Rob continues to surprise me with the creators and directions he’s chosen for these books.
Next up is the return of Supreme. The art is by Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher. The script on #63 was the final Alan Moore script, with Larsen taking over writing chores with #64. It’s been a looooooong time since Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse were on Supreme. In fact, there’s an in-joke about wish other artists drew like Chris Sprouse in the Moore-scripted issue and I found that joke a more than a little appropriate.
I don’t know if Alan Moore’s Supreme was the first meta-themed comic, but it certainly was an early one to popularize it and Moore continued with the approach when he moved on to Tom Strong. Supreme is essentially Superman and Moore was playing with the various incarnations of Superman over the years (Golden Age, Silver Age, funny animal/Mighty Mouse, grim’n'gritty 80s, etc.) and dimension hopping a little. Sprouse would draw this in appropriate styles. Everything was played straight, but with affectionate winks if you knew what they were doing.
There’s a little too much slapstick to the Larsen/Hamscher art for my tastes. It takes a bit of the affectionate wink out of the Moore script and puts a little more of a Mad Magazine flavor into it. The parody goes up a level. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a legitimate interpretation. I just happen to prefer the previous flavor.
When Larsen takes over for Moore, the plot spins off in a very linear direction. I have no idea if this is where Moore would have taken it, but it certainly follows logically. The story goes a little more over the top with battle royal and little sharper dig at the 80s. If you liked the original, it’s worth checking out to see if like the slight shift in flavor and larger shift in art. I’m not sure I’d recommend it if you haven’t read the Moore issues, which don’t appear to be in print. A definite oversight.
Finally, we have Bloodstrike as written by Tim Seeley with art by Francesco Caston. Of all the Extreme relaunches, Bloodstrike comes off as the most straightforward. It’s a little bit of a mixed bag, and it starts off a little slow. If I had only read the first issue of the relaunch (#26), I might not have come back for more, but as things get into #27-#28 a little more depth opens up.
Bloodstrike concerns a government strike team that reanimates the deceased, making them into superheroes/supersoldiers. Cabbot Stone is the main character. All this reanimating has made him effectively immortal, but it’s also a painful process. Stone’s psychologically messed up as a result of this and an abusive childhood.
Bloodstrike is interesting when it delves into the subject of immortality, especially contrasting it with what appears to be a community of immortals and the philosophy they’ve developed as an alternate to religion. The Cabbot family history also has some potential.
Unfortunately, the actual government program running the reanimation is really tedious. Oh, look: the jerk director shagging his assistant. Aloof scientists. Etc., etc., etc.
There’s some standard superhero action caught in between the threads, too.
Overall, the art’s good and the subtexts pick up as the story moves along. This might end up as something that will be better as a collected edition than a serial.
So, rounding up:
Youngblood: Promising. You might get a little extra amusement if you like The Boys and are curious what it would look like played a little straighter.
Supreme: Direct continuation of the old series (Rob, seriously — get that back in print), see what your reaction is to tweak, if you like the original.
Bloodstrike: Mixed bag that’s improving. If you’re going to sample, read through the second issue to start getting the full flavor.