Plot: A handful of the Great Ten is sent to quell riots in Tibet when they meet some very displeased Chinese Gods. Meanwhile, we find out the less-than-noble origin of Accomplished Perfect Physician.
Comments: Created by Grant Morrison, the Chinese “super-functionary” team the Great Ten was one of the most promising things to come out of 52. Three years later, they remained a series of cool ideas and seeds that hadn’t yet grown into very much save for a few appearances in Checkmate. In the right hands (like the original creators’), The Great Ten could have been something very weird and special. In the wrong hands, it could have either been offensive, stereotypical, or boring. In the hands of Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel, we must settle for The Great Ten #1 being a little of both.
Bedard surprises with the depth of his script, which only introduces a few members of the team but surrounds them with political conflict both interior and exterior. He’s also brave enough to have his superhero protagonists put down the protesters with lethal force, which he balances out with the Accomplished Perfect Physician, who Bedard imbues with morality and an origin that subverts the Green Lantern style inheritance origin.
For the most part, however, The Great Ten is exactly the kind of Great Ten comic I didn’t want to see. The first page of is a somewhat defensive explanation of what China is, presumably to explain to readers that China’s not as bad as they think. After all, they invented the compass. If four widescreen panels condensing thousands of years of Chinese history wasn’t bad enough, there’s also bad Photoshop effects and nigh-unreadable font to make things seem really ancient.
The biggest offenders in The Great Ten #1, however, are the flashback pages, with each page bookended with thick wall scroll-like borders emblazoned with Chinese symbols. We get it, already. They’re foreign. Imagine if Superman was always standing in front of the American flag.
Despite the strengths of his writing, Bedard fails to give his heroes anything resembling a compelling characterization. While I’m interested in the conflict between the moral Accomplished Perfect Physician and his more governmentally loyal comrades there’s hardly anything likable or dislikable about him. The same goes for the rest of the team, who are as of yet indistinct save for Ghost Fox Killer, whose personality amounts to “she points guns at people indiscriminately.”
Perhaps I’d be nicer to The Great Ten #1 were Scott McDaniel’s art not so inexcusably terrible. For a story that aspires to be mired in complex politics and morality, the art is inappropriately cartoony and so simple and grotesque that it feels like a rush job. When he draws characters from a distance their faces are reduced to circles and slanted lines for eyes (seriously). When he draws in close-up you get no sense of texture or character.
Granted, it’s only the first issue. There’s still nine issues for The Great Ten to prove itself. But it would require fleshing out the rest of the team and for the writing to transcend the bad art. Good luck, The Great Ten.
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