Editor's Note: End League #2 arrives in stores this Wednesday, March 5.
Exclamation: "(Marvel's) Clor got nothing on (Dark Horse's) FrankenThor!"
Explanation: In a mostly fight-filled issue one of the main protagonists, AstonishMan, kicks the bucket, as does his former friend/teammate, the lobotomized Thor. There are a couple more battle casualties but none of them fatal. More is revealed about Dead Lexington, both his past and present. Also introduced is the third pillar of the End League’s big-three Trinity and as expected he bears more than a passing resemblance to Batman. As if all of this isn’t enough, the ending brings about yet another twist in this already convoluted (but not in a bad way) storyline.
Examination (Story): Pacing wise, this series is developing as expected, hitting all the appropriate check points at near appropriate times. With the first issue taking care of the set up and exposition, it falls to the second issue to ratchet up the action a notch or two, which it does quite well. In fact, this second issue could be almost accused of presenting too-much action. Almost. Thankfully, all the fights have appropriate rest moments, allowing for plot development and in the case of AstonishMan and Divinity, a cheesy clichéd (and yes, tired) love proclamation.
Introduced towards the end of the previous issue, FrankenThor draws parallels (intentionally or unintentionally) with the Thor Clone from Marvel's last mega event. Now given that I haven't read any issue of said event nor do I do plan to, I cannot comment how the two twisted-Thors compare up with each other. However, given what I know about Clor's end it's a given that he wasn't nearly as powerful or resilient as the original Thor. This is not the case with FrankenThor. Not only does he have all the physical prowess of his pre-lobotomization self, he has the added advantage of working on pure instinct. Add to that the fact that he wields the real Mjolnir his effectiveness in a battle situation goes up even further. Unfortunately, he isn’t working with/for the good guys anymore. This goes double for AshtonishMan who meets his end at the hands and hammer of his old friend. Thankfully for the rest of his teammates when A-Man blows, he takes FrankenThor along with him.
As for the other big introduction of this issue, Batman, I mean, Black, is the third member of the Big-Three Trinity of the End League universe. As with the template he is based on, Black comes across as more of a mind-player than either AstonishMan or Divinity. He is also clearly less of a whiner than AstonishMan. Then again he hasn't single handedly brought upon the apocalypse. As with Batman, Black too could very possibly be non-powered. There wasn't anything in this issue to make me thing otherwise.
All the fighting, all the characters wouldn't account to much if the story didn't have a solid plot premise to hold it all together, and frankly last issue's scavenging for food plot thread was, well, dismally weak. Thankfully, this issue brings quite a few dishes to the plot-strapped End League table: AstonishMan's "death" (I'll almost bet on his returning in some way or form), the bit about Mjolnir, the mystery of Kelly Klein, just to name a few. Moreover, if Dead Lexington wasn't a big enough problem, another bigger threat raises its head. Given its nod to the Lords of the Rings (in the introductory solicits) me thinks a fellowship might just form between the End Leaguers and Dead Lex and his cronies.
Even though End League solicits also draw comparisons to Dark Knight Returns, I'd personally extend it to include DC's Kingdom Come. End League is the sort of story Kingdom Come could have been if it were half as bloated, one-third as blowhardy and, oh, a tad less obsessed with the whole Superman-is-Jesus complex that many DC fans and quite a few of their current big-name writers are fanatic about. Although End League too has its share of people who regard AstonishMan as the savior, it's nowhere close to the level of absurdity of Kingdom Come has for its Superman. Also, while its characters might hold to the savior complex, at no time while reading these two issues did I get the feeling of the creators peddling the same to the readers, another positive difference with the aforementioned DC series.
Lastly, about Kelly, along with the physical similarity and the same letters for both the first and last name, AstonishMan's asking Black to keep her safe and Lexington's grabbing her, let's just say all the arrows point towards Kelly being the End League's Lois Lane.
Examination (Art): The art of End League, though doing a commendable job of visualizing the story, does have its share of shortfalls. For one the inks and shadows don't always seem to be in the right place and of the right amount. It works just fine for the darker setting of Zane/Black but not so much about the daytime, energy sparks filled battle involving AstonishMan, Divinity and the others against FrankenThor. As for the colors, they too could have used a little more flair, brightness and saturation, given how big in scale this world-saving superhero saga End League aims to be.
Proclamation: There are talks/rumours of End League becoming an ongoing monthly. To quote Martha ex-JailBird Stewart, "…and that is a good thing."
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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