I’ve been having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to start a review of EGOs, the new creator-owned comic by Stuart Moore and Gus Storms, because it’s hard to figure out how to even describe the thing.
It has a lot of science fiction elements, with the intimation that a lot of world building of a galaxy with years of history, including wars, colonization, disasters and technology all considered… but that’s not quite it. It also has superheroes, including an old superhero team, a new one, and a few fringe players who might wind up being heroes, villains, spoilers, or even disinterested observers… but it isn’t really a superhero story. There are signs of a future dystopian kinda tale, with intimations of friction between different parts of the galaxy, spoiled worlds and a main government that might just not give a damn about any of its subjects… but that doesn’t really make the nut, either.
So clearly there’s a hell of a lot going on in EGOs #1, and it might sound like a book that’s trying hard to figure out an identity in a short 24 pages, running the risk of being a mish-mash. Like when Grant Morrison gets some of the good mescaline, or when Alan Moore tries to carry on a conversation longer than three minutes that doesn’t reference his own genius. But that’s really not the case. Instead, it’s a story about a few deeply flawed characters with questionable motivations and backstories in a universe that is filled in enough to give the whole thing a feeling of being a part of a long-running epic sci-fi space opera.
This isn’t the simplest, most forgiving read of the week, but it’s pretty damn intriguing.
Deuce was a superhero with the power of persuasion who was a leader of the EGOs a quarter century in the past; now he’s a public speaker. Touring with his wife Pixel – the daughter of a former villain who built armies of supervillains via cloning – he is drumming up support for a new crew of EGOs that he is trying to put together in the face of some ephemeral trouble in the outer colonies, “out Perseus way.” And the timing seems to be good, since an old nemesis, Masse, and his herald Top Quark, are attacking colonies and have killed former EGO Planetarian, on their way to some as-yet unknown goal. So Deuce’s promise to put together a new team of EGOs within a single week is well-timed indeed… but a week is an awful short time in which to find five superhumans in a big galaxy. So it’s a good thing that Deuce has a trick up his sleeve… but it’s a trick that Pixel does not like.
That might seem like a simple plot summary, but let me tell you: it was a bitch boiling down this plot into just a few sentences. Because this book isn’t interested in laying things out in a simple Point-A-to-Point-B kinda way. The book opens with The Planetarian getting the ick and then jumps to another character who seems to be able to jump into 11 different types of hyperspace (who we learn almost nothing about in this issue) and then a flashback to the original EGOs and then out to Top Quark killing some space marines (who we get to know remarkably well for cannon fodder) to a major plot twist, all narrated by someone we don’t meet until two thirds through the book, and who only gets a couple of panels of actual screen time. What I’m saying is that the comic is dense, and it is packed with mysteries that are so far only hinted at. It is demanding.
And yet is is not difficult to read; it all serves a purpose. The location jumping helps to demonstrate that we are dealing with a large and varied universe. The details about small places, people and technology help to fill in that a reasonable amount of thought and care has gone into the world building around this story. The flashbacks to the original EGOs team and references to Planetarian’s character tell us that there is a history here, not only in this world, but between the characters. The effect is to make this seem like a lived in universe, with a lot of possibilities.
With that said, with this much stuff going on, something’s gonna get somewhat short shrift, and in this issue, it’s the characters. Let’s remember that Moore is introducing no less than 14 or 15 characters here, which means a certain number of them are gonna get the tell-don’t-show treatment (We learn most of what we know about The Planetarian from what other people say about him), and some are gonna simply not get much introduction at all (when it comes to Shara, the little kid who can see into 11 different version of hyperspace, pretty much all we are told about her is that she can see into 11 different versions of hyperspace). But the characters we spend time with, and how they describe others, give us a picture of desperate, selfish and vain people, trying to appear heroes no matter what the real situation is. So while there are a lot of blanks to fill in with a lot of characters, what we know, especially about Deuce and Pixel, are interesting enough to make we want to see some of those blanks filled in.
Gus Storms’s art seems kinda European in style to me. There are some panels that look remarkably like they could come out of an old issue of Heavy Metal, but his linework, rather than being thin in the way I associate with that style of art, is actually generally medium or thick, which adds some weight to the images. Pretty much every panel has a background, and those are all pretty simply lined and easy to read and follow without being busy. The backmatter of the comic indicates that this is Storms’s first major comic work, and considering that, his storytelling is impressive – as an example, he establishes The Planetarian on planetside with a wide panel of the planet itself, a wide shot of Planetarian to show he is alone in ruins, a closer shot to show he is concentrating, a pullout to reestablish he is alone, and finally a closeup to establish his face. It tells where he is and what he’s doing in a way that doesn’t really require the text to get the sense of what he’s doing. Look, I’ve said before that European style comic art isn’t my favorite, but this is effective and clear enough that I generally liked the look of it, and found it effective.
EGOs #1 isn’t a perfect book, but it is ambitious. It is a superhero sci-fi space opera in a semi-dystopian future, and instead of being a mess, it is actually pretty cool. It’s writing a check for a bunch of character and plot promises that it had better cash in coming issues, but there’s a lot here to like. If you can keep your attention focused as it jumps from place to place and story type to story type, I think you’ll enjoy it. Give it a shot.