Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Comics To Talk About: Loners #2

Yeah, I know it's been a while. Shut up. I've got a review to do. And it's a review by way of a confession.

My name is Michael, and I'm a Slingers fan. For about a year in the late '90s, it was actually my favorite Marvel book. I was pretty much in the right place and right time for it to happen: Young, dumb, full of... well, let's just stick with young and dumb. I'd be heading to college in not too long, I was still full of self-doubt and angst about the future, and then there was girls. I don't know anyone who had it together at 17, but I still probably had less of it together than most.

And then comes this weird book, about four kids who take on the costumes Spider-Man was wearing in that rather lame "Identity Crisis" event. Sounded like a money-grabber, but I'd liked the Hornet outfit 'Ringo had designed in Sensational Spider-Man, so I picked up the variant of #1 with him on the cover (and the variant interiors covering bits of the story from his point of view, as opposed to one of the other three. The ultimate gimmick.), figuring it'd be a good laugh.

Turns out, it was a lot more. This new Hornet, Eddie McDonough, turned out to be a character I liked a whole lot. It helped that Eddie was pretty much the exact same kind of nerd as me: brilliant, insecure, but basically good-hearted. He also struggled with cerebral palsy, a birth defect that left him feeling like he wasn't like everyone else, and not in a cool way like mutant powers would be. (I'm not palsied, but I know what that's like.) So, of course, his best friend is Ricochet, a mutant, who tries to bring Eddie out of his shell at the same time he's going after the girl Eddie's got it bad for in a major way.

Oh, and did I mention that girl, Dusk, had died on a training mission?

So, yeah, I was hooked. I followed the book all through its twelve-issue run, and when they signed off, I always hoped somebody would bring them back somehow.

Well, be careful what you wish for, because we all know what happened when somebody finally pulled Eddie out of the round file. We'll not discuss specifics, it's covered in this issue and elsewhere. Suffice it to say, I was not pleased.

Which brings us to Loners #2, told from the viewpoint of one Johnny Gallo, aka Ricochet, Hornet's best friend, and current wannabe-ex-superhero. Right from the recap page (a "Dear Mr. Henshaw" riff where Johnny is writing a journal entry in the form of a letter to Eddie about what he's been up to lately), I knew this was going to be the story I'd wanted to read since "Enemy of the State": How did Hornet's death affect the people who knew and loved him best?

Well, we all knew that it had to have something to do with Ricochet hooking up with the Loners, but it turns out not in the way we might have thought. Hornet's death was why Rico packed up and left for LA, but it's a lot more personal than "My best friend died," if you can believe it.

It's "I got my best friend killed." In a move that fits thematically with where Slingers came from in the first place, it turns out that while Eddie was keeping the faith, Johnny was slipping away. The superhero gig had been fun at first (and we see that Johnny enjoyed certain perks of the game), but Ricochet slowly got bored with the thrills. Until finally, the night his best friend called and said he needed help taking down a big threat, Johnny Gallo said "No thanks and good luck" ...

And woke up to find his best friend's obituary on the front page.

And ever since, it's been haunting him. Whether or not he could have done something, he should have. Maybe he'd just have upped the body count, but dying at his friend's side, protecting people who needed help, would have been better than living with the shame. Because Johnny didn't just turn his back on his friend; he turned his back on himself. Ricochet is who he was born to be, and when he tried to deny it, someone he loved paid the price.

I think you can all read between the lines here.

So, there it is. C.B. Cebulski takes a cheap, cynical death scene Mark Millar wrote to make his cheap, cynical story look more badass, and turns it into a story of friendship, personal tragedy, and a sacred promise. In short, the stuff heroes are made of.

Thanks, C.B. I needed that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey man, just accidently stumbled upon your journal here while searching for Loners stuff. But I actually saw you post this same thing to a comic board, and I gotta say I totally agree with you, 100%. I posted my own thoughts on the Runaways messageboard over at - feel free to stop by! Another Slingers fan is always welcome!