Alan Moore Top 10 series (Book 1 and Book 2) remains one of the highlights of his work on the America’s Best Comics line, and we also enjoyed the spin-off Smax that threw the cop drama genre to the wind and chucked a couple of the Top 10 characters into a humorous fantasy setting. So it was with high expectations that we sat down to read The Forty-Niners – the story of how the Neopolis police force featured in Top 10 got started.
Set in an alternate world where people with extraordinary super-powers are the norm, The Forty-Niners follows a handful of Second World War heroes, fresh from fighting in Europe and the Pacific. With many of them still feeling an urge to do good in the world, they unite to help form a police force to tackle a growing crime problem, and are destined to become the organisation, if not the characters, that are featured in Top 10.
While Moore tackles some controversial elements, it doesn’t have the edge to the story that the original Top 10 series had. The wartime heroes are less dynamic than their future successors will be, while the inevitable showdown leaves you with a feeling of ‘so what?’ We thought the war stories hinted at in the characters’ past might have made better reading than this, which sees them struggling to find their way in a post-war world.
The art side is great though, with Gene Ha capturing his alternate universe well, both through his characters and his stunning under-construction background architecture. Art Lyon’s muted colours also work wonders over Ha’s drawings, offering a sepia-toned contrast to Top 10‘s brash futuristic colouring.
Perhaps it’s only because Top 10 was so very good that this is ultimately a disappointment. It’s interesting to read from a Top 10 fan’s point of view, and a graphic novel from Alan Moore when he’s just ticking over is still superior to most. But The Forty-Niners just isn’t up to the same dizzying heights as the original series.
More Top 10 reviews:
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