Top 10 Season 2 (#1 – 4, Special) – Zander Cannon with Kevin Cannon

2 out of 5

Although I have my nitpicks about some of Alan Moore’s works, or takes on his career, I would never try to argue that he’s not an incredibly intelligent, and skilled writer, capable of rendering the densest of material into digestible, understandable story chunks. 

And dense doesn’t have to equate to stuff of Watchmen / V caliber: something comparatively silly, like Top 10, is rather one of the best examples of this, with the stated goal of comic-booking an ensemble show like Law and Order not only succeeded at, but then perhaps perfected beyond the medium: I’ve rarely know any story with so many characters to move through them all so well, and to balance out humor and drama tones along the way, and then to also somehow deliver both satisfying subplots and on longer-running threads. 

This is all to underline that I’m aware that writing ensemble books firstly isn’t easy, but then if you’re also trying to do so while mimicking Moore’s take on it – such as Zander / Kevin Cannon’s Top Ten “season two” series – you’re setting quite a high bar. 

And while the rating should suggest I’m of the belief that the Cannons didn’t exceed or meet that bar, because Zander was in the art trenches on season 1 (along with Gene Ha, here on art again), he does have a good understanding of the overall flow and patter of the world; these books do solidly port that stuff over to a new tale: at a high level, it “feels” like Top Ten, and that’s a good thing. 

But there are differences of course, both at a surface level, and then deeper, when the storytelling proves to be a far cry from what came before. Up front, while some of that is due to the series being canceled halfway through, it’s also just kind of half-baked, unable to generate much steam due to shallow application of its themes and characters. Still, the complete lack of resolution does detract from the rating: a conclusion would’ve made its flaws more tolerable. 

Back on the surface, though, the book takes a bizarre hit right away due to an odd choice to color (Alex Sinclair) the foreground characters in a painterly fashion, perhaps straight from pencils, versus more traditional inks and colors on backgrounds / background characters. This discrepancy is changed all to the more traditional style across layers by issue 2, but it makes an unfortunate impression. More importantly, though, the world just feels… empty. Moore’s Top Ten landed that world-constantly-moving vibe because the art reflected it, whereas this is like the low budget version – smaller sets, fewer extras, cheaper costumes – nevermind almost a complete lack of nods and jokes in the backgrounds. 

The story mostly focuses on some logical carryovers from season one: the replacement of Girl One with Girl Two, and Pete’s continual slide into destructive behavior and racism; B stories involve the replacement chief, from a dimension that’s much stricter than the one of Neopolis, and some ongoing cases – a murder; a drug bust. Again, this is all valid and a feasible xerox of the book’s formulas, but it’s the aforementioned deeper issues, or perhaps their lack: the characters have no heart; their dialogue is going through the motions, very much as though there were some concepts the Cannons wanted to sift through – workplace politics, mostly – that they then mapped the best-fit personalities on top of. Combined with the roving narrative style of Top Ten, it’s a mixture of very shallow messaging and forced plot beats; every dollop of exposition is too clear of a sign post intended to move things along, or swerves out of the way to speak to those intended concepts. 

Flashing forward, Zander would apply some of this structure to Kaijumax, but the broadness works there because of the over-the-top style and concept. While Top 10 is also high concept, it worked so well because of how it’s grounded – another aspect that’s not well applied here. However, as we get into the special issue – intended as one of two specials, prior to the cancellation – the Cannons go for a single, linear sequence, taking place (mostly) in a courtroom, and this shows that the grasp the writers have on the concept is best put to use when breaking from Moore’s more complex structure; the special’s tale is very solid, and is able to make several social commentary observations without the forces hand of those in the main series. 

While I wholly suspect my overall opinion on Top Ten season two would be better had it been allowed to finish, it still suffers from sticking to the established template too strictly, even though Cannon’s and Ha’s understanding of the TT world from season one gives them a firm understanding of that template. Without writer Alan Moore’s guiding hand, the Cannons storytelling style isn’t a great match for the multi-threaded plots, especially how they’re used to underscore other agendas, rendering each equally unsatisfying. And without appropriate “big budget” visuals to distract, the series – already hampered by being canceled halfway through – feels especially empty.