Marvel and DC, locked in eternal battle like T-Rex and Spinosaurus, can be wearying to follow. Events, cross-overs, tie-ins, reboots- hardly a year goes by without monumental changes that Shake The Very Foundation of Everything. To be less facetious, I now scorn the phrase "End of an Era" for, as of late, eras aren't six or seven years worth of dedicated work by a pair of creators, but maybe thirty issues of any given title (featuring ten different artists). Alas, this post isn't where I splash an industry that gives me weekly joy with fish guts.
This post is about the sparrows of the comic rack. They're new to the scene, nearly invisible, and star flickering shadows intentionally reminiscent of more famous characters. The best example of this was the 1999 book The Authority, which had a first year so exhilarating that Marvel spent the next decade copying it. The lean and mean treatment of Superman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League (there named Apollo, Midnighter, etc.) was exactly what readers had been craving for years.
Danger Club is the latest title to riff elaborately on the major motifs we know and love. Publisher Image has just collected the first four issues, but I've been taking a chance on it from the beginning (which was in April, making this comic quarterly). The schtick presented by writer Landry Walker and artist Eric Jones is that all the adult heroes have been killed in space, leaving their teen sidekicks to protect the Earth.
Naturally, Teen Titans explored a similar premise years ago. But what makes Danger Club such atrocious fun is that the creators approach their characters and the material as if all is a clear spring day, and nothing of the past or future matters. What results is a blood-drenched microcosm brimming with sidekick survivalists. Some are more vaguely familiar than others; the Superboy analogue is actually called Apollo (in honor or both franchises?), Robin's clone is called Kid Vigilante, and Nick Fury (of all people) is dropped to pint-size in Jack Fearless. Lesser DC deities like Mr. Terrific and Zatanna see a strange merging in The Magician, while tiny, technologically-superior Yoshimi reminds us of the Avengers Wasp and Iron Man.
The story itself dashes on its feet, dropping us in where Apollo has declared himself ruler of a city left to chaotic spasms. A clique of altruistic sidekicks (mentioned above) disagree, and crash the sports arena where dozens of other teens battle for rank in the new regime. Artist Jones is a gory perfectionist, who can draw bright-eyed youths just as incredibly as he does the blows that cripple them. Innocent faces convey raw idealism pages before becoming Tyler Durden Approved burger.
But I can't dwell long on the similarities between Danger Club and the asinine comics that launched Image in the early 90s (Youngblood, Bloodstrike, Brigade). Few titles today jettison writing as flagrantly as they did, and Landry and Jones' creation is a smart, sharply-plotted ride that I only wish came out faster. With each issue's release, there is a visceral appeal that's undeniable (aided immensely by Michael Drake's dazzling colors), making for great nostalgic reading. Still, to enjoy the finer twists and turns of character betrayals and looming master villains, you must reread them as a collection.
And of course I'm willing to, for as long as Danger Club lasts. It's a scrappy yet fragile world, where death and destruction actually have weight. Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, will always have an audience to demand his return from the land of ghosts and wind. Kid Vigilante, whether his head explodes or his playground gets cancelled, won't.