Plot: In what could be the end of the world the last of earth's heroes struggle just to eat.
Commentary: When I first started reading this book I thought to myself, "Oh no, not another series knocking off every established super-hero available and trying to pawn it off as something new and innovative." But then I kept reading. Sure, Remender draws the inspiration for his not so merry band of heroes from other more established recognizable characters from all over comicdom but the similiarity ends there. Remender uses the established super hero icons for a template only and then springboards down. That's right, there is an ever so slight leap in the beginning of the story, but it's a false hope and a false optimism and we are drawn into the depths of despair with the narrator and protagonist of the tale, Astonishman. Remender's view of superpowers is indeed pessimistic and The End League asks the question, "What would happen if people really gained super powers?" Would they be the altruistic paragons of hope that popular culture has made them out to be or would the majority succumb to baser human instincts and abuse and misuse their amazing powers? His answer is that for the most part humanity would not benefit itself but oppress and destroy itself in greater ways.
Indeed, even the most well-meaning of heroes, which Astonishman is, would ultimately cause destruction even unintentionally. Remender even does a riff on the classic image and notion of Superman moving the planet and reversing the effects of an earlier failure as played out in the finale to Richard Donner's Superman: The Motion Picture with Christopher Reeve. There Superman pushes his powers to their limits to reverse time and right the many wrongs inflicted on the planet by Lex Luthor's machinations. The result is a happy ending. Here Astonishman pushes his powers to their limit to right the Earth's axis due to an explosion he inadvertently created (killing 3 billion people) and instead of helping things it makes them that much the worse, spawning a greater irradiated and super powered populace. The majority of these newly powered individuals turn to selfishness and evil bringing more death and darkness to a fast plummeting humanity.
So, in Remender's worldview, super powers are a curse and not a blessing with the ability to play God the most dangerous and despairing of games. What's left for a rag tag group of ex-super heroes to do in a world overrun and controlled by villainy? Sadly, it is only to survive. The mission of this End League is not to right the wrongs of the world or bring in a new era of hope to humanity but simply to live to fight another day. In a Mad Max-like future the prize is food, not gasoline, and Astonishman and his crew of End Leaguers goes to desperate ends just to get another meal. I thought it odd that with a supposedly super-powered populace there seemed to be so many mystical and mythological members of the team. In retrospect this makes sense for Astonishman to do as the great majority of the superhero populace can't be trusted. He's sought out otherworldly super forces as allies. As a matter of fact, a sub plot is the search for his long time friend and ally Thor and his magical hammer Mjolnir. Yes, since Thor is an unlicensed myth, another version of the character appears in this series. He does show up, just not where and how he was expected to. So Remender has started with an interesting if gloomy premise. In the end I can really take this or leave it. If I got a free copy of issue #2, I would read it, but Iím not sure if I'd spend the money on it. Broome's artwork is serviceable showing the fall from grace of both the heroes and the planet to go along with the themes in Remender's script.
Final Word: If you are into skewed versions of your favorite Marvel and DC heroes and like your comics doomy and gloomy, this is a book for you.
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