21 August 2017

Review: Top 10: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore and Gene Ha

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2005

Acquired and read September 2016
Top 10: The Forty-Niners

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Gene Ha
Colorist: Art Lyon
Lettering, Logos and Design: Todd Klein

Alan Moore and Gene Ha return to Top 10 to fill in some of the backstory of Neopolis. Following World War II, the United States confines its "science heroes" to the city of Neopolis. Heroes accustomed to ruling the battlefield during the war, like Steve "Jetlad" Traynor and Leni "Sky Witch" Muller, must adjust to life as civilians, and figure out a use for their powers outside of a military setting.

It's a book about finding your purpose in peace. Steve and Leni find theirs, but many of their fellow veterans can't manage it. Leni joins the Neopolis Police Department; Steve becomes a mechanic for the Skysharks, an aerial squadron. Though, since he's the captain of the Neopolis P.D. by the time of the present-day Top 10 stories, we know he must join up eventually. The original run of Top 10 revealed at its very end that Steve was gay (which he seemingly kept on the downlow from his fellow officers), and his finding of purpose is as much a finding of himself, as he tries to force a relationship with Leni that neither of them really wants in order to deny part of his own nature.

C'mon, Steve, admit the truth!

I really liked Leni, too: a statuesque woman who initially fought on the wrong side during World War II, now trying to make good. Her subplot, like the original Top 10 books, blends superhero stories with police procedural in a way I found satisfying-- instead of the police vs. the mob, it's the police vs. organized vampires.

I guess you could say the police are... on a witch-hunt.

Gene Ha is always a strong artist, but this is probably one of his very best books, with great character, clear storytelling and emotion, and some beautiful scenes. Art Lyon's subdued coloring adds to the retro feel as well as to the book's morose, contemplative vibe as its characters find their places in a less colorful world than the one they knew during the war.

Ha captures the scale of Neopolis ever better here than in the original Top 10 series, I think.

Overall, a much better permutation of Top 10 than Beyond the Farthest Precinct. Now I just have to hunt down Smax!

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