Current Reviews


The B-Sides #2

Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian David-Marshall
Artist: Brett Weldele

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens by showing us that Charley Huckle, the man who brought the B-Sides together is a participant in a sleep research program, and it's hinted that Charley is able to exert some method of mental control over others, though given the rather sorry state of his life, one also gets the impression that he's unaware of this ability. We then see him hook up with his new team, as he's eager to show them their new headquarters, but the team isn't exactly impressed, as Charley shows them a dilapidated, rat-infested warehouse. We then see Charley is eager for his team to get cracking on their first mission, as we see he's got them hired by a woman who paid the bail for a third-rate super-villain who calls himself Doctor Dark, and when this man skipped bail she discovered her money was more important than his freedom. After they luck out by asking the right question to Fateball's magic eightball we see the B-Sides confront Doctor Dark at the bowling alley. However their attempt to peacefully bring him in is quashed when he learns they know Charley, and a fight ensues. However this contest is brought to a quick finish when the Fantastic Four arrive, presumably looking for the B-Sides.

This issue does a better job of explaining what exactly our trio of young heroes are capable of, and it also features the B-Sides’ first job as a team, as they attempt to bring in a super-villain who has jumped bail. The issue also does a pretty solid job showing us that Charley Huckle vision of what this team will become doesn't quite measure up to what it actually is, and this skewed vision is perfectly captured on the page where we see him proudly showing his group the dilapidated warehouse that will serve as their headquarters. The last page of this issue brings in the Fantastic Four, who should make next issue quite interesting, as based on the scene in the first issue it is Jughandle's power that has drawn this group to New Jersey. However, if it comes down to a fight, I really can't see any way for the B-Sides last any length of time, and since Reed presumably has a device that can track the energy of Jughandle's little jaunts outside time & space, their ability to make a hasty retreat is not likely to get the Fantastic Four off their backs. If it does come down to a fight, Mize has the only useful power in a fight, but his inexperience at using this ability make his success unlikely.

What doesn't work quite as well on this book is the simple fact that the book hasn't really generate any sense of excitement. I mean the characters are interesting enough, and I'm always game for a story involving a group of rookie heroes getting their feet wet, but my interest in a story like this is largely dependent on this cast being thrown in the deep end, and being called upon to secure a victory against overwhelming odds. Leaving the group in what is essentially the kiddie pool hasn't really grab my interest, and while the last page arrival of the Fantastic Four is a step in the right direction, given this book is an untested product looking to grab itself an audience, it would've been nice to see this book get itself into gear a bit sooner. Now I realize the early issues of any book featuring new characters are going to spend the early issues introducing the characters, and Brian David-Marshall has done a pretty solid job of making his four lead characters into an interesting collection of personalities. Still, I hope that he has a rougher road lined up for the group before the final issue hits, as right now the B-Sides haven't really faced anything that made me sit up & take notice.

The art on this book is pretty nice match, as one does get the sense that Brian David-Marshall is going for an underground comic feel, and the gritty look of the art does a good job of playing up this mood. The art also does a nice job displaying the low rent quality of the B-Sides, with the double-page spread of the team's new headquarters being a fun peek at what the building looks like, and how Charley believes it will appear once the cash starts rolling in. One also has to love the idea of a super-villain that has skipped bail, but not only does he remain in town, but he also continues to wear his attention grabbing headgear that one can't help but notice. The art does a fairly nice job playing up the danger of the battle, as Doctor Dark does get a couple moments where he does look quite imposing, and one has to smile at the scene where his villainous gloating is cut short when the rest of the decayed fire escape comes crashing down. I do have to say that I don't really care much for the art's take on the Fantastic Four though, as the group doesn't look nearly imposing enough to lend credence to the B-Sides stunned reaction, or the issue's closing text.

Final Word:
The B-Sides are a promising collection of characters, and Brian David-Marshall has some clever ideas at play here, as we follow a team that from all outward appearances has no hope of making it to the big leagues. The main problem with this book is that it's pacing is a bit too slow, as while it makes sense that the B-Sides would start at the bottom & work their way up, pitting the B-Sides against a baddie who barely rates as a threat doesn't exactly make for a thrilling read. Now I realize it's unfair to criticize this book for remaining true to its lower tier roots, but Brian David-Marshall's first goal should be the delivery of the most entertaining product he can, and it seems odd that he would make the uphill battle that all new books face even tougher by avoiding the staples of an exciting read (e.g. threats that endanger the heroes, situations that generate concern and/or interest in the characters). Then again the final page arrival of the Fantastic Four ensures I'll be back for the next issue.

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