4 out of 5
Did I believe that the first All-Time Comics experiment would actually make it to a second ‘season?’ No, no I did not. But yes, I’m very glad it did, even if it’s marked with some of the same indie comix bullshit that affected the previous run, and I do hope the creators make good on a season three, as well as what appear to be one or two spin-off issues…
ATC established its “heroes” of Atlas – a Superman proxy with crippling self-confidence issues – Bullwhip – a street-level Black Canary type, battling her foe The Mysogynist – Crime Destroyer – Batman with a hilarious fist-themed costume and no hesitations toward gunplay – and Blind Justice, sort of the Roschach crazy of the gang, besuited, awesomely, in cardboard and duct tape to pad out his thin frame. This foursome protects Opal City’s vaguely defined quarters, and our first six issues traded in 70s comics’ coloring and cliche and cheek with a modern, crass winking at the audience. For Zerosis Deathscape, we’re promised a legit team-up and ongoing storyline, though, which we mostly get: when the evil Rain God’s scepter splinters, and one of its pieces embeds itself into a dude who becomes the ‘free will controlling’ Zerosis. He buddies up with ‘The Beggar’ – a chortling, fat, killer – and they cause a lot of havoc.
Why does the janitor become a full force of evil as Zerosis? Dunno. Why does The Beggar masquerade as ‘the daylight savings time killer’ in the first issue, something that’s never mentioned again? Dunno. But what works with ATC is the way writer Josh Bayer, now buddied up with Josh Simmons, embrace the nonsense and turn it in on itself, clicking by on internal logic and the fumes wafting off of the insane artwork from Trevor von Eeden and others. Because things are more ‘serialized,’ all pages are now dedicated to comic, leaving out the faux ads that sort of messed with the oddball spell of the previous series – this is a plus, in my mind – but at the same time, Bayer (or Simmons?) falls back on a lot of coarse, lazy language, which falls in to the high school-notebook scribbling style of writing a certain breed of indies employs. Used as punctuation, it can be funny, but overused, it’s immature. This is furthered by each issue’s backpage ‘editorial,’ which amount to somewhat loose-lipped rants on how comics save the world and the world sux, and, frankly, it just doesn’t give off the impression of much intelligence… Which isn’t to say that the writer isn’t intelligent, more that most types of manifesto-style boast – such as these text blurbs – tend to come across as rather short-sighted to me, and that combos with the in-issue swearing to bring the series down a peg.
But: otherwise, this swirling mess of light backstory – the first few issues start off with some ‘origins’ drawn by different artists, and these are a lot of fun – and the main story’s inclusion of Skullmen, and time traveling vampires, and doted-upon mothers, and over-over-over-the-top violence, is a very unique and wild type of off-kilter, very often attempted, but not given the same type of dedication as the ATC crew has shown. Von Eeden, whose classic work I’m admittedly not familiar with, has a very rough style to my eye, but you quickly adapt to it, after which point I was bowled over by his layouts and his embrace of the insanity while maintaining a clear sense of choreography and reading order. He’s absolutely a required piece of the Zerosis puzzle, and I found myself torn between ogling the art and flipping the page to figure out where the heck Bayer and Simmons were taking their ridiculous (and ridiculously enjoyable) tale.