Alan Moore is well known as a writer of fantastic graphic novels and comic series. But it’s easy to forget that he started his career and spent many years as a freelance comic writer, making stories for any comic publisher willing to pay for his time at the typewriter. This collection brings together a handful of comics he wrote for WildStorm, a publisher of superhero comics established by Jim Lee and later bought by DC Comics.
Although this is fairly standard superhero stuff, Moore’s trademark style is all over it. Having established his career in the pages of 2000AD, writing short thrillers that subvert the rules of time and physics, he does a similar sort of thing here.
The first story sees Spawn, actually an undead superhero from another publisher, crossing over into WildStorm’s world to meet up with superteam the WildC.A.T.S. Versions of the heroes from the future come back to try and kill Spawn who, in their future, has become deeply evil and powerful, and has taken over the world. A typical Moore-style paradox opens, leaving no-one sure whether the situation is solvable, if it’s an unavoidable destiny or if the paradoxical nature of the whole thing is just going lead to the collapse of the universe.
There are other equally memorable and imaginative pieces. We see what might happen to an indestructible superhero (in this case Majestic) at the end of the universe; see a superhero turned stripper battle demons in St Louis; and witness an almost Lost-like experiment in cloning and survivalism.
It’s perhaps the art that’s more of a let down. In the first story, the female characters are drawn in that objectified, over-the-top style that’s so often aimed at the teen market, though the art improves as the book progresses. Moore’s characterisation defies the stereotypical illustration, with female characters that are powerful and complex.
Despite the fact that many Moore fans might be unfamiliar with some of the characters in WildStorm’s pantheon of heroes, we think it hardly matters – Moore is writing around superhero archetypes here and the names play second fiddle to the stories. In fact, this collection, with its longer, multi-chapter pieces, gives Moore more room to develop his characters as he goes, proving superior to the chop and change that we saw from having too many characters represented in what is essentially the DC Comics’ version of this book – DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore.
As a result, this ends up being a surprisingly disarming collection of stories, even if its early reliance on impossibly-figured superheroines might grate against any comic reader who keeps their brain higher than half way up their body.