The Rann/Thanagar War #s 1-6
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Pencils: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Joe Bennett
Inks: Marc Campos, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Jack Jadson
Colors: John Kalisz, Richard Horie & Tanya Horie
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Reis & Campos
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Stephen Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$3.50 CAN per issue
One of my favorite comics titles ever is Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when DC announced a sequel — Infinite Crisis — I was understandably interested. In the buildup to that event book, the published released several limited series in 2005 purporting to lead into it, and I read most of them, including Villains United, Day of Vengeance and The OMAC Project. However, for some reason, I didn’t delve into The Rann/Thanagar War, despite it being written by the highly respected Dave Gibbons. Well, my local comics retailer had a blowout sale of its comic bundles not too long ago, and I scooped up armfuls of discount comics. Among them was a complete of this limited series at a ridiculously low price. As such, I certainly can’t say I wasted my money on this series, but reading it was a waste of time. If the the overly verbose script and annoyingly complex plot weren’t frustrating enough, the complete lack of any real resolution to the plot after six issues is enough to leave the reader wondering what the point of the book was in the first place (other than a means to pluck a few extra bucks from the pockets of DC’s fanbase).
When the populace of Thanagar is forced to seek refuge on Rann, its longtime rival and intergalactic enemy, tensions understandably are running high between the two peoples, so a number of space-faring heroes — Adam Strange, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Captain Comet and a couple of Green Lanterns — endeavor to stave off the conflict. Unfortunately, the power and manipulations of the vampiric alien despot Onimar Synn mean war — and a tragic body count — is likely inevitable.
The main art team on this book — Ivan Reis and Mark Campos — convey the chaos of war adeptly, but those darker leanings in the visuals hinder the sense of wonder that should be inherent in such a science-fiction epic. This is a fairly busy story with a multitude of characters, and the artists seem to handle those challenges effectively. Later issues include pages is by additional pencillers and inkers, but fortunately, the overall look of the series remains consistent. One can see the subtle shifts in style from time to time, but it’s not at all jarring.
Marvel is well known for its array of cosmic characters, but DC is no slouch in the space-opera department. Gibbons endeavors to bring as many galactic characters into the fray as possible, as well as a number of established alien races choosing sides in the titular war. Building stories with diverse characters and on DC’s varied history of storytelling is one of the advantages of the shared continuity of a superhero universe. As a longtime DC reader, I enjoyed seeing familiar and even obscure characters turning up in the story.
That being said, not all of those characters were welcome. Onimar Synn turned up in Hawkman-related stories in JSA some years prior, I found him to be a one-dimensional and even confusing villain. The same holds true here. His nihilistic motives don’t really work in the context of a war story. He’s not driven by politics or faith or any other such established motive for war. He’s just a bad guy who wants to be bad, and that’s really not all that interesting.
The biggest liability of this series is the fact that it’s so deeply mired in the convoluted history and continuity of Hawkman. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Golden Age and Silver Age Hawkmen were merged into one character, and it just didn’t work. Efforts to mitigate that misstep have fallen flat, and it’s evident in the story.
Gibbons explores the complexities of war, the politics of military action and its effects on neighboring nations (or in this context, planets). He definitely hit the complexity mark — a bit too well, really. There are so many factions in the story, so many characters and so many conflicting goals, it makes for a dizzying plot. In the end, I really wasn’t all that invested in the results of the conflict, but I was nevertheless taken aback to find that we don’t get an ultimate resolution in the pages of this title. At the end, the reader is directed to start buying Infinite Crisis, and I think Gibbons owed the audience an ending. 4/10