by Sean Bieri
In 1999, 12 years after “Watchmen,” a po-mo deconstruction of the superhero genre that cast the cape-and-tights crowd as middle-aged has-beens and fascistic sociopaths, Alan Moore again turned his attention to revisionist superhero themes with a host of titles under the America’s Best Comics imprint. “Tom Strong,” whose first adventures are collected now in a hardcover volume, is a retro-pulp, jetpacks-and-dirigibles reworking of Doc Savage-style stories, with a bit of a Superman flavor thrown in.
“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” — the series’ first six-issue story arc wrapped up last week — assembles the great characters of 19th century adventure fiction (Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jeckyll, etc.) into a steampunkish spy team. “Top 10,” a cop drama in which everyone in town, down to the junkies and hookers, has mutant powers, combines the Justice League with “Hill Street Blues.”
The lead character in “Promethea” becomes physical via the imaginations of the artists who interpret her through the ages. She bears a resemblance to Wonder Woman, but the book is really a rumination on, among other things, the creative process itself.
All of the ABC titles are loads more fun and interesting than the average straight-up superduper comic. It seems that for every yawn-inducing muscleman regurgitated by mainstream comicdom, Moore has a half-dozen fully-realized characters and stories to put them in that are twice as entertaining as anything else on the shelves. Either a) Alan Moore is the best scripter of masked vigilante comics working; b) His competition is so lame that besting them is no great feat; c) The caped crusader genre is finally so played out that any new wrinkle in the formula seems groundbreaking, or d) All of the above. What say you, true believer?
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