The Movement #1
Billed as the first blow in a one-two punch of bracingly contemporary comics, DC taking a fittingly partisan tact to the current political landscape, The Movement is meant to represent the revolutionary side of the current social slate. It does this by amalgamating a number of real life traditions like the Tea Party, the Occupy Movement and the digital guerrillas Anonymous, then straining them through a more traditional superhero team narrative. Going in this was all I knew to expect and I’m very glad of that because there is something troubling about the experience of reading this book semi-blind that made it much more effective than it may have been had I known more.
Introducing new characters to the DC comic universe is something of a big deal; it happens, but only occasionally and usually only as a big ‘event’. So when a new team title is announced it is usually just a simple shuffling of existing superheroes ( or villains in the case of Simone’s own Suicide Squad); here though writer Gail Simone starts from scratch, creating and employing a whole host of new characters and power concepts in the space of a single issue and because of this the book had a tension to it that established titles cannot.
While reading it I was always unsure just who the heroes were – wondering if this person secretly has powers, what that persons powers are and if they know of each other – and whether or not they were all heroes. We are introduced to each of these new characters in short, potentially sinister situations; in scenes that could easily be spun to that of a villain’s entry: one is set-up to be a serial killer, another evokes satanic imagery as he bursts from the basement of a church surrounded by rats crying war and all of them are pitted against the traditionally protagonistic men of the police force and yet these are the people that we’re meant to root for.
Gail Simone has, time and again, shown herself to be more that capable of creating completely empathetic comic characters that the audience can’t help but care for and so i’m not willing to chalk the strange dissonance I felt reading this book up as a blunder, it is instead very brave. It would have been simple to write a story of struggling underdogs who valiantly defend the masses and spread power democratically, but that story would have had less to do with our own world than a Green Lantern crossover. What she has done instead is create a team that are totally righteous but maybe not always right; their intentions are good but the world they lives in far too intricate and greyscale for that to be enough.
Once you know this though the book loses a little of its lustre; the ambiguity of the characters so vital to the ambiguity of the message since so many of the scenes are so strongly familiar ( the half of the book dedicated to the police characters employing every bit of cliche cop dialogue) and their positions lacking some subtlety. The art by Freddie Williams showcases this in a way, merging the traditional DC superhero template with something a little scratchier, a little grittier; while Chris Sotomayor’s colours bringing both gloss and gaud to the world of Coral City.
Though I had some issues with The Movement, both the book and the real world iteration, it did something that no other new DC book has done in a while, it disconcerted me and because of that, unlike their other team titles this one will have me back for issue two and onwards. It was always a safe bet to assume that Simone would be able to win us over with these new characters in the long run, but here she shows the short term hook that will get us there.