The un­fo­cused Un­fo­cused un­for­given

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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.

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