B-Sides #2, December 2002, Marvel Comics
writer: Brian David-Marshall
artist: Brett Weldele
letterer: David Sharpe
colorist: Matt Madden
assistant editor: Lynne Yoshii
editor: Andrew Lis
Blogger's note: Entry for Monday, February 25, 2008.
What happens when a title like The Craptacular B-Sides is cancelled and its characters are lost to back issue obscurity? Are its characters demoted to C- or even D-list status? Actually, a quick reference to the B-Sides' Wikipedia entry explains that theirs was intended as a three-issue miniseries. Forgive my skepticism when I wonder if that was always the plan. I've seen plenty of personally favorite characters lost to the annals of barely chronicled continuity when their publishers realized that I was the only geek buying their books. "Oh, it was a miniseries! Yeah, that's it! A perfectly rationally numbered nine issue miniseries!"
Yes, I'm talking to you, Anarky -- a character we could desperately use in the midst of this finger-pointing election year. Speaking of which, I discovered a certain Presidential candidate's appearance in an old issue of Superman: A Funeral for a Friend earlier today. Yes, that's Bill and (a blonde!) Hillary Clinton publicly grieving for the Man of Steel. Hey, at least she didn't don a cape in his honor or something. Now there's a picture Obama could've kept in his pocket for the right time.
But I digress . . . unless Hillary's cameo establishes her as a Y-list comic book character, in which case, she fits right in with the likes of Jughandle, Fateball, and Mize.
The B-Sides basically remind me of the Justice League International without the preestablished reputations, experience, and capital. Charley Huckle, part time con artist, is their benefactor, and it remains to be seen if his intentions with the team are noble, and perhaps even redemptive. He really couldn't have found a more useless group: Jughandle can transport in and out of a little time pocket, Fateball can determine the future by asking yes or no questions to her magic 8-ball, and Mize and accelerate the deteriation of things. Okay, actually, having any of these powers would be pretty cool (and a fateball would come in handy on a lonely Friday night . . . please don't make me elaborate), but in a world of Avengers and X-Men? Yeah, pretty lame. Case in point, this issue's throwdown with Doctor Dark.
Huckle sends the B-Sides on their first official "case," capturing the bail-jumping hero-turned-villain Doctor Dark. They find him wallowing in self-pity, explaining that bullies often called him Doctor Dork, or worse, Doc Ock . . . thanks to his old friend Charley Huckle?! Before the B-Sides can explore the truth behind their mutual acquaintance, Dark loses it and fires his, well, darkness everywhere. Suddenly, enter the Fantastic Four, and to be continued. If you actually click open the B-Sides' Wikipedia entry, you can read a synopsis of the next (and last) issue, but knowing what's in store won't stop me from finding it. First of all, I already have the first two, so what's the harm in owning them all? Further, while the plot is neatly summarized, I'm genuinely interested in these characters' development. Who can't relate to a trio of adolescents trying to find their place in a world of giants?
As I mentioned in my review of B-Sides #1, the art in this issue perfectly compliments this issue's story, with a rough, angular style that compliments the uncertainty and candor of youth. The Sam Keith cover and Evan Dorkin title page are eye-pleasing extras, which makes one wonder who else could've contributed to these obscure tenn heroes had their series continued.
Honestly, though, a ragtag group of Marvel superheroes? Warren Ellis' Nextwave cornered that market. Doesn't it seem like B-listers are in lately? The prison break that inspired the new Avengers series was a virtual who's who of old Marvel baddies. Further, universe-spanning crossovers like Countdown, and animated projects like the endlessly rostered Justice League Unlimited and Legion of Superheroes have enabled characters like Steel, Timberwolf, and Shining Knight to, er, shine. Will Marvel's upcoming Skrull invasion reveal the fates of Jughandle, Fateball, and Mize? They're really capable of more than three issues, no matter what their status on the alphabet of heroes.