Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Never Men #4

The Never Men #4 (excerpt from trade paperback), January 2001, Dark Horse Comics
writer: Phil Amara
artist: Guy Davis
colorist: Dave Stewart
letterer: Steve Haynie

Like yesterday, I read today’s dose of comic book goodness at the library, but unlike yesterday, I didn’t dive headlong into a multi-chapter trade paperback. I decided to read the last chapter in the trade as a single as it was originally intended, as if I had found The Never Men #4 alone in a back issue box. The result?

I regret it. As the final installment of a four-issue arc, this issue wrapped up a lot of loose ends, not only from a storytelling perspective, but through its dynamic characterizations, as well. I had to flip through the rest of the collection to get a grasp of the overall plot, and although I dig the story’s concept, I wasn’t too keen on writer Phil Amara’s technique. As near as I can tell, the Never Men is a team of lab-constructed do-gooders specifically designed to protect their technologically macabre, intensely gothic, unidentified city of the future. One of the Never Men goes renegade in a private investigation of his origin, while the others continue their fight against mutant (or alien) criminal masterminds.

Davis maintains a style dedicated to the combined genres in this story, a bit of detective noir here, a bit of tech-punk there, and I dare say his visuals are the true strength of the Never Men. I understand I read the last chapter of a series, which is like catching the last fifteen minutes of a movie, but I had a difficult time convincing myself that I should care about the ramifications of these final confrontations, culminating explosions, and closure-ridden dialogues. Well, one of the lines did grab me for a moment. In response to Diggs, the renegade, and the quest for his past, the Professor that spawned him comments, “You don’t understand. They were never men to begin with.” A nice way to wrap up his introspective odyssey, although undoubtedly not to the character’s satisfaction.

The Never Men is really about asking that tough question, “Where do we come from? Why are we here?” Okay, that’s two questions; the answer to one presumably leads to the satisfaction of the other. I could easily digress into an analysis of man’s origins, scientific versus spiritual theories and all that, but I ultimately find it amusing that the comic book medium best offers an insight to this debate through the adventures of trench coat wearing superhero clones. Truly, like an issue collected in a trade paperback, this is a medium that stands alone.

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