26 February 2018

Review: Threshold: The Hunted by Keith Giffen, Tom Raney, Phil Winslade, Scott Kolins, et al.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2014 (contents: 2013)

Acquired December 2016
Read January 2017
Threshold, Volume 1: The Hunted

Writer: Keith Giffen
Artists: Tom Raney, Phil Winslade, Scott Kolins, Andrei Bressan, Timothy Green II, Joseph Silver
Colorists: David Curiel, Andrew Dalhouse, John Kalisz, Chris Sotomayor
Letterers: Dave Sharpe, Dezi Sienty

Threshold was DC's first attempt at a "New 52"-era space-based ongoing comic, and The Hunted is its first and last volume. Threshold is the creation of Keith Giffen, co-creator of two 1980s space-based DC ongoings, The Omega Men and L.E.G.I.O.N. I don't know why it's called Threshold, but The Hunted is like the Hunger Games in space, sort of: it's a reality television series in Lady Styx's domain of Tolerance where political undesirables are forcibly enrolled. They have bounties placed on their heads, and are then let loose in Tolerance, and anyone who kills them gets the prize money. Anyone can take a shot, but popular groups of professionals have evolved. The longer you avoid being killed, the higher your bounty goes; L.E.G.I.O.N.'s Stealth appears as a long-time survivor of the games. The main character is Jediah Caul. Caul is a Green Lantern who sells out a trio of other "spectrum warriors" (purple, blue, and yellow) to The Hunted, but when they escape the game, Styx's people replace them with Caul.

Caul's not a very nice guy, and we watch him try to survive as he encounters 21st-century reworkings of a lot of old-school DC space characters, like Space Ranger and Tommy Tomorrow and Captain Carrot and Star Hawkins and the Star Rovers. Plus characters like the Blue Beetle show up, too. This was what made the book difficult for me: there was a lot to keep track of, and given that these characters were mostly created in the 1950s, most of them were generic white dudes. It seemed like there were too many for Keith Giffen to keep track of, too, as ideas and characters would be set up that went nowhere, or popped up sporadically.

Captain Carrot is about the worst partner one could have.
from Threshold #2 (art by Tom Raney)

I just could never get into the book as much as I would have liked. Too many characters, a premise that came across as both thin and overegged, a main character I never really enaged with, and too much sub-Firefly future slang that reminded me of the kind of thing Kris Straub parodied in Starslip. That's not to say it was bad: I liked Captain K'rot, and the whole Brainiac subplot was kind of interesting, but at times it was a slog that didn't seem to be going anywhere.

That said, there were two things I enjoyed. The first is the Star Hawkins backups, ten-page strips about what Tolerance's worst P.I. and his robot secretary (who has the mind of his ex-wife) are up to while Caul's on the run. They have some legit laugh-out-loud parts:
With friends like this, who needs enemies?
from Threshold #6 (art by Timothy Green II & Joseph Silver)

The other was the last issue, where Giffen provides a meta-commentary on the whole series by cancelling The Hunted. Blue Beetle even shows up to complain he didn't have anything to do with anything:
Between writing this review and making this scan is when I began reading Blue Beetle, so now I feel even more sorry/annoyed about his treatment here.
from Threshold #8 (art by Tom Raney)

And a spin-off is proposed, disposed of on the second-last page, a new spin-off is proposed and disposed of on the same page!

What is that font used in the last two captions, and why does the world consider a sci-fi font? DC and IDW both use it on their sci-fi titles pretty consistently.
from Threshold #8 (art by Tom Raney)

The sheer brazenness of the last issue made it hugely enjoyable, especially the way Giffen dovetails the last Star Hawkins backup into the main story, but I think if the best part of your comics series is the issue where you complain about being cancelled, you kinda had a problem from the very beginning.

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