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Deprogrammers #1

Posted: Monday, August 8, 2005
By: Kelvin Green



Writer: Kevin Kneupper
Artist: Randy P. Valiente

Publisher: Boring Lawyer Comics

[EDITOR NOTE: Currently, the entire first issue of The Deprogammers can be accessed free of charge at Boring Lawyer Comics Website.]

Taking deconstructionist superheroics to its logical conclusion, this presents heroes and villains alike as totally delusional nutbars, with illusory identities engaged in phantom conflicts with each other. Except their powers are all too real, and their actions threaten human life on a daily basis. The titular deprogrammers are the ones who have to turn these super powered deviants into well-adjusted personalities, at any cost. It's a pretty good attempt at superhero deconstruction; there's nothing particularly new or profound on offer here, but it's interesting enough in that it goes further than many other similar approaches. At the end of The Dark Knight Returns for example, Batman was still a hero, but the superhumans here don't get that final redemption; they're taken completely apart and are found wanting.

The problem is that the final page gives the impression that for all the time and effort spent in taking the genre apart, the actual premise of this series won't be too far removed from traditional superheroic fare. Admittedly there's not a great deal to go on, but from what we get here, it looks like the series will actually be about the "cured" superhumans helping the deprogrammers in tracking down their super powered brethren, and that's not a million miles away from the paramilitary/police style teams of the 90s which, for all their guns and edgy attitudes, were pretty standard superheroic concepts. Obviously, it's unfair to judge this issue on what I think future issues will be like, but the suggestion is there, and besides it's merely symptomatic of a problem which *is* there, namely that there really isn't a strong statement of intent in this issue. The comic does one thing for twenty-odd pages, then flips around and threatens to do something completely different towards the end. The problem is that the former can't possibly sustain a series, and the latter isn't really that interesting. The end result is a vague and unsatisfying read.

The art is significantly better; Valiente shows talent, although there are a number of panels that feature half-hearted backgrounds and wobbly linework, and the big fight scene towards the end of the comic suffers from a couple of dodgy panels. Characterisation is good however, and the artist certainly deserves much praise for making something visually interesting from a comic that largely revolves around someone strapped into a chair in an empty room. This single issue is a good, albeit fairly superficial, deconstruction of the superhero, but beyond that it flounders; the comic doesn't seem to have an idea of where to go from that point, or at least not a satisfying one, and that dampens interest considerably.



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