Thursday, July 26, 2012

National Comics: Eternity #1

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Cully Hamner and Derec Donovan

When the Vertigo line began back in the 90s, one of my favourite comics was Kid Eternity, by Ann Nocenti and Sean Phillips.  There had been a mini-series by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo (I think) before that, but it was in the monthly that the character, a modernization of a Golden Age child superhero with the ability to call historical figures back from the dead that helped him fight crime, really grew on me.  I distinctly remember that one issue had KE driving around with Neal Cassady, and that coincided with my discovering the writing of Jack Kerouac.  The 90s were all about synergy, right?

Anyway, we're now almost a year into the New 52 at DC Comics, and a big part of the mission statement seems to be repatriating Vertigo characters into the new DC Universe.  It's worked well with Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and John Constantine, although it didn't work too well for Shade the Changing Man.  Now it was time for Kid Eternity to get the treatment as well, I guess.

In this one-shot, Jeff Lemire revises the character a great deal.  Christopher Freeman is a young medical examiner who, a year ago, died from a gunshot wound, but then returned to life.  Since then, he's been able to bring the spirits of the recent dead back from the grave, and he uses this ability to solve their murders.  Generally speaking, Christopher is a bit of a screw-up.  He's haunted by the death of his father, and the poor relationship he had with him (it's weird that this came out the same week as Lemire's excellent The Underwater Welder, which explores the theme of father-son relationships as well).  He's afraid to talk to the girl he likes, and his boss wants to fire him.  When he brings back the spirit of Darby Quinn, an antique shop owner who was found dead the back of his store, he is close to losing his job.  He figures that solving Quinn's murder will save him, but Quinn is not what he seems.

This is the first issue of DC's new National Comics series, which is going to be a monthly one-shot featuring a different character and creative team.  From the solicitations for the next few months, I'm not too sure what the goal of this new series is going to be.  I imagine it's serving a purpose similar to Top Cow's Pilot Season comics - to float an idea for fandom and see how people respond to it, but the next bunch of issues look like they'll be underwhelming.  After reading this issue though, which sets up an opposite number for Christopher in The Keeper, and establishes what the next mystery would be, I would definitely be on-board for a mini- or ongoing series, especially if it has this creative team.

I've been a big Cully Hamner fan since I discovered his work on Green Lantern Mosaic, and would love to see him on a regular book again (or, in DCnU fashion, sharing a regular book with an artist with a similar style).  This comic was a real treat this week, and even if it doesn't lead to more new Kid Eternity stories, I hope that DC may start republishing the old Nocenti ones for a new audience to enjoy.

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