Back when I first started collecting comics, I was a huge fan of Crisis on Infinite Earths and The History of the DC Universe. I mean, I”m still a huge fan of both of those and have even gone so far as to get my copies of the collected editions signed. But back in the day, between those two series and any and all editions of Who’s Who, I loved diving into anything that gave a thorough look at the rich history of DC’s continuity.
Why, then, this passed me by in 2010, I’m not sure except that I know that for at least the first few months of its publication, I wasn’t buying comics at all–I had quit cold turkey in the middle of Final Crisis when a combination of finances and frustration with then-current storylines caused me to throw my hands up. When I came back in October 2010, it was when issue #6 and I was only picking up the two Titans books (Teen Titans and Titans). I can’t remember what people’s reception to the series was at the time, but based on the fact that the big DC stories for that year were “Grounded” in Superman, “Odyssey” in Wonder Woman, and whatever the heck was going on in Batman, a look back at the 75-year history (more or less) of DC Comics seemed to fly under the radar.
I fished most of the series out of the cheap bins during Shortboxtober last year and I suppose I could have bought issue #3 on Comixology but I’m sticking to my “only read what you have” rule for this blog, so I let it go and pieced together what I could through context clues. That wasn’t hard, nor was figuring out why this kind of flew under the collective radar, which is something that I hate to say because the sheer talent on this book is everyone I love to see in a comic: Len Wein, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name), George Perez, Dan Jurgens, and Jerry Ordway, to name a few.
This is essentially an effort to write a DC Universe-based version of Marvels, the seminal Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross series from 1994 that looked at the major events of the Silver- and early Bronze-Age Marvel Universe from the perspective of a news photographer. Here, we have Len Wein giving us a narrator in Paul Lincoln, a kid from the streets of Metropolis whose encounter with members of the Justice Society back in the 1940s makes him rethink the life of petty crime he’d been leading and we see him eventually become a police officer. It’s a job that has him intersect in some way or another with the major events of the DCU from the adventures of the JSA/All-Star Squadron through the rise of the JLA, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and ending with the OMAC side of Infinite Crisis.
Throughout the story, Wein has Paul witness a number of key events and then lets them play out mostly as we are used to seeing them in their original forms–in fact, Dan Jurgens more or less does a shot-for-shot remake of the final moments of the Superman/Doomsday fight in Superman #75–while we also get a family drama involving Paul; his wife Peggy; and her brother (and Paul’s ex-best friend), a convict named Jimmy.
I can’t really think of anyone outside of possibly Mark Waid who could have been tapped to write this story–Wein was the editor on a number of DC’s titles during its 1980s resurgence, including the original 26-volume Who’s Who and really knew the voice of various superheroes. Unfortunately, when he decides to focus on the actual superheroes, he doesn’t do it with the normal guy’s-eye view that Busiek did in Marvels. There, the main character, Phil, was the exclusive lens (no pun intended) for those events; here, when it comes time for a major event to happen, we sometimes get what seem like shot-for-shot remakes of those famous moments that completely remove us from the book’s chief narrative.
While I don’t think that DC should have simply aped Marvels (and by the way, for a DC history comic, there’s not enough apes), I think that Paul’s occupation as a police officer and eventual detective in the Metropolis police department would have made for a contemplation on the nature of heroism, especially contrasting those with great powers with police and others who often risk their lives in their jobs. There’s a little of it here, but it’s often interrupted by the superheroics.
The art, by the way? Absolutely gorgeous. All of the people involved give us what seems like a feel for that particular era and do seem to put some extra care into their work. I especially like seeing Perez inking Ordway and Ordway inking Jurgens as well as the father-and-son Kuberts working together.
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