Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

I should probably announce right now that there's absolutely no way I'd have ever lifted this book from the shelves of my own volition. I didn't read Final Crisis, and I've never heard of Super Young Team, the adolescent stars of the series that evidently emerged during the course of 52. If DC's customary lack of an introductory paragraph weren't enough, the rainbowy cover and seemingly generic character designs would have only served to drive me further toward intentional ignorance.

But what's that old adage about books and their covers, something about a premature judgment? I'm not sure what connection this series has to Final Crisis (and there's a good chance it's under my radar) but as a lighter look at the fame and fashion of being an internationally recognized superhero, Dance is a shocking success. With codenames like "Most Excellent Superbat" and "Atomic Lantern Boy," there's no question which classic heroes this squad apes, nor how seriously their book takes itself. And while such a flippant tone breeds a natural worry that the series might never play it straight, the amount of personality and originality that bubbles over in this issue is enough to compensate for its eccentricities, at least on the short term. Dance's team of heroes are bonafide rock stars, not just because of the way they're presented by the big league publicists under their employ, but in the way they act, talk, walk and generally carry themselves. In buying into their own hype, they're making it much easier for you and I to do the same.

Although there's little doubting its exuberance, Joe Casey's storytelling does occasionally overexert itself in an attempt to prove it's down with what today's kids are into. The concept of mobile tweets taking the place of thought bubbles is fresh, and seems innocent enough the first few times it comes up. After the fourth or fifth instance, though, the constant interruptions start to become irritating, like a persistent IM buddy who doesn't realize you're trying to get some work done. That's not the only new technique the writer fails to get off the ground. I'll applaud him for trying something different, for applying an extra layer of the team's personality to the mechanics of the book itself, but I wish he'd used his gimmicks a bit more sparingly.

Casey's artistic partner, ChrisCross, brings a bouncy visual approach that's right in line with the young, energetic vibe introduced by its cast. The club scenes look and feel like club scenes, and they're balanced by the flat, clinical aura that's a perfect match for the team's stuffy, corporate-financed headquarters. Cross brings a great sense of timing to the page, accompanied by a nice understanding of the issue's pacing. When the scenery is meant to be moving at a leisurely pace, the team's body language follows suit. The stars aren't constantly flexing, gritting their teeth and coiling to strike, and they certainly aren't afraid to step out and define themselves as individuals, even if the plot doesn't afford them more than a couple dedicated panels in which to do so. Casey brings the team's heart and soul, while Cross establishes its spirit.

There's no doubt in my mind that many of the intricacies of this story were lost on me. After all, I strolled in with little to no knowledge of the characters, their place in DC's ever-expanding multiverse or their general direction as individuals. And while Final Crisis Aftermath – Dance #1 didn't exactly answer all (or even most) of my questions, it also didn't leave me feeling lost and abandoned, alone in the cold in a strange land. It's got its highs and lows – at some times it's a bit too manic for its own good, but at others that's what makes it so endearing. Perhaps most importantly, Dance has promise and with five issues left in the mini-series, there's plenty of time to capitalize on that. Worth a borrow, with the potential for bigger and better things in the future.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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