The unfocused Unfocused unforgiven
The Victories Vol 1: Touched
Writer/artist: Michael Avon Oeming Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
THE excerpts of rave reviews plastered on the back cover of this volume – there’s even one on the front – seemed to me like laying it on a little thick. Beware of putting the hype machine into overdrive, people, it tends to ramp up the potential reader’s expectations to unrealistic levels.
And this first volume of Powers artist Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories, which he writes as well as draws, turns out to not live up to the hype. It’s muddled, too long drawn out, and somewhat predictable when it comes to the reason for its main character’s brokenness.
For those who know Oeming primarily from his art on Powers, he is no stranger to the typewriter, having written Image’s Hammer Of The Gods, several Thor stories including the 2005 Beta Ray Bill adventure Stormbreaker, and Dynamite Entertainment’s Red Sonja books, among others.
The Victories is billed as an adult superhero adventure, and the levels of s( cough) x and viol( cough cough) nce in it are somewhat high, and it also deals with so-called mature themes.
It’s set in a “broken city” (just not the one with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe) where crime and corruption are rampant, and a designer drug named Float, which has some pretty grotesque side effects, is flooding the streets.
The Victories are a superhero team, although the other members don’t get much exposure in this first volume which focuses on their teammate named Faustus and his nemesis, the homicidal Jackal.
Faustus is a Batman-Azrael-hybrid kind of
hero who tosses wisecracks at his opponents in combat, much like a certain Wall-Crawler. The reason he does this is explained in the course of the volume, but the trouble is just that his one-liners aren’t very good.
Anyway, the Jackal is not an outright villain but an extreme vigilante, one who makes the Punisher look sane by comparison. He figures that Faustus is damaged goods and is holding back from unleashing his true potential as a killer. And, in giving full rein to his instincts, to begin fixing everything that’s wrong with their city.
As if to prove his enemy right, their first confrontation in this volume ends with Faustus gaining the upper hand on the Jackal (right after the latter has ripped off the head of a corrupt judge) and refusing to strike the killing blow, sending him off to prison instead.
But this broken city’s confinement facility is as leaky as Arkham Asylum, and it’s not long before the Jackal is loose again, enlisting a psychic ally to force Faustus to access parts of his mind and memory that he has suppressed.
Now, it doesn’t take a consulting detective to figure out just what it is Faustus is suppressing, especially after an early flashback showing his early training under a retired superhero known as the Mark.
It’s very predictable, to put it generously, and so it’s baffling why Oeming’s script keeps tapdancing around the subject before finally calling a spade a spade rather late in the story.
Apparently, Oeming intends to focus on different members of the Victories in each volume. The next one, Transhuman, reveals some secrets about the superbeing named Metatron and the vivacious adrenaline junkie known as D.D. Mau.
Just where exactly these various story arcs will ultimately take the team is unknown for now, although I’ve read some interviews in which Oeming has stated that his main fascination with these characters lies in exploring what goes on in their minds.
The heroes in The Victories don’t deviate very much from the standard archetypes in super-teams – the loner vigilante (Faustus), the superhuman who’s “above” everyone else (Metatron), the enigmatic fighter (Sai), the livewire (D.D. Mau), the – hell, I don’t know who/what Lady Dragon is supposed to be after reading this debut story. So it looks like Oeming is intent on exploring the motivations, background and psyche of these characters, to see what makes them tick, and in essence give us his take on what drives the various hero types. The names may be different here, but you should recognise their templates in similar heroes from other publishers, like Batman, Superman, The Wasp, etc.
In Faustus’ case, the journey through his tortured mind is more rewarding than the destination. In this aspect of the story at least, Oeming succeeds in sucking the reader down into the mire of the character’s despair.
The good: Raw and unflinching in script and art, absorbing in parts, and its characters’ actions are refreshingly unpredictable.
The bad: The story takes too long to get to the (flimsy) point, the dialogue varies wildly in quality, the reason for Faustus’ repressed trauma is predictable and unconvincingly teased.
The ugly: Those Float addicts are just freaky, man. Although it has enough that’s different to stand out from the crowd, The Victories is not something I’d readily recommend just yet without a clearer idea of where the book is heading.
Caped screwed-up crusader: Faustus reminds one of a though he is more messed up than both of those guys combined.
one of a batman-Azrael hybrid, guys combined.
Faustus engaging in a familiar pastime, and Oeming succeeds in sucking the reader down into the mire of the character’s despair.