"Hostile Takeover pt. 3: Poison Pill"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Tom Grummett (p), Von Grawbadger (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
This is a lame-duck ending to a once promising title. While I'm sad to see this title go, this issue highlights all its faults rather than its strengths.
One is a lack of compelling villains. I was excited when it seemed Busiek would use Dr. Cyber again (could she be as compelling as her masked counterpart Madame Steel was when he unearthed her for Avengers?), but she was never engaged directly. The mystical threat of the Dragoneer was completely generic, as were the succession of thugs, demons and third-stringers the team habitually faced. Even Josiah Power, the most charismatic member and leader of the team, was taken out by a faceless non-entity, depriving the team of its motivating force for too many issues.
I suppose Dr. Polaris was their best threat, actually challenging the team to new feats of bravery and loyalty. Busiek made DC's pathetic answer to Magneto threatening again, for the first time since Wolfman/Staton set him against Green Lantern long ago. And for once, his wordy arguments with Skyrocket (Busiek out-talked Claremont frequently in this run) were actually interesting.
Another problem with the team was the redundant characters. Both Stryker Z (who used technology like Skyrocket and was a celebrity like Witchfire) and Sapphire (who lucked into a piece of uber-technology she barely knew how to use and was there more as the token teen) were expendable. Especially with the supporting characters that flooded the book, from Manhunter's enemies to Josiah's allies and employees.
Where Busiek did right was by his guest-stars; using obscure bits of DC history (as he had done in Thunderbolts at Marvel), he gave Firestorm, Black Canary, Green Arrow and Batman memorable appearances in the title, both as antagonists and as allies. If only we'd stuck with just Manhunter (arguably the best character; certainly the most complex and like a solo star), Skyrocket, Witchfire (as a sort of ignoble Scarlet Witch) and Bork, the stories might have been stronger and more focused.
The "professional superteam" angle wasn't a bad hook, not with Josiah's company and attitude so convincing. The issue where demons showed up for business appointments was a hoot. The last few issues of the mystical Satanstone impersonating a corporation in order to take on the world (an idea lifted from Morrison's Marvel Boy series, but a good one) made for a fitting thematic nemesis. But the execution was flat, too little, too late, especially in this final issue.
Again a supporting character steals the spotlight (Silver, Josiah's executive secretary). Two, in fact, as the newly minted Haunted Tank also takes up space we needed to say goodbye. No hint of the ongoing Manhunter/Skyrocket personality clash, or of Bork's friendship w/Sapphire. No chance to explore what's really going on with the non-human Witchfire (is she a spell that thinks it's a person?). Just lots of utterly average sword and sorcery, a things-must-go-on ending, and we're out.
The art also suffers this issue. Von Grawbadger may have been a sentimental choice (he inked the first issue and some in-between), but his inks are heavy and stiff over Grummett's detailed pencils. Prentiss Rollins' lighter, more linear style is definitely missed.
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