Total Eclipse (#3) – Marv Wolfman, Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

When I’m jumping into a series cold – which I am, here, only reading this issue for the Steve Gerber bits – I try to review it based on how effective the one-off is at getting me interested in reading more. Granted, that’s a little unfair, as some series are surely more reliant on a linear reading experience for investment, as opposed to some jerk glancing at things midway through passing judgement, but I do try to take that into account also; I think the criteria is, essentially, still valid – if the writing and art are of a quality that I can sense some type of passion or originality behind it, even if I’m wholly confused by the story, that could still be enough to make me want to see more.

Total Eclipse was a crossover, event comic for Eclipse. Crossovers event comics – for publishers that aren’t / weren’t focusing on having shared universes, which Eclipse definitely was not – generally rely on the same setup: suddenly there’s a multi-verse, and something is going to destroy it unless select individuals from various multi-verses come together and… Well, there’s generally not much logic beyond that point, as it’s just a mumbo-jumbo excuse to get people in the same room. Due to that mumbo-jumbo nature, I’m not normally a fan of such comics, as they’re pretty ephemeral in nature, and often only exist “because:” because there’s an anniversary or something and it might be fun to try something that whichever publisher hasn’t tried before. Done right, it can be fun (see Batman / TMNT), but in general, it’s often just a string of nods to fandoms of each character, a villain who comes and goes without consequence, and a slog of zero-logic issues that try to have one illustrator mish-mash things from different genres, resulting in a mish-mash overall.

Total Eclipse, from what I glean in this issue, definitely follows the concept mentioned above – Zzed is immortal; he wants to die, and the only way to do it is to kill the entire multi-verse; the only people who can stop him are various Eclipse characters blah blah blah – and it is wholly a mish-mash of not only art styles, but also writing styles, but by dint of the Eclipse selection pool being so varied, it gets some zing from how nonsensical it is. Like, Wolfman had to try really hard to wrap his style around everything, and so that aforementioned ‘passion’ does come through; artist Bo Hampton (with assists from other creators) is zipping through a fast-paced story to the best of his ability, and does a fair job of allowing for the various other artist hands to add to his somewhat generalized look – both pieces of the words and pictures puzzle aren’t cleanly fitting together, but it’s amusing watching the struggle for them to do so. Marv effectively gives up at certain points, with characters like Mr. Monster and Ms. Tree getting passed over for multi-verse selection, and he jumps back and forth between a serious tone and a fourth wall breaking one, which renders any hope for the Zzed story to feel impactful nil. This ultimately works in this issue’s favor, as it makes the book silly over boring, which the first few pages’ relatively more streamlined storytelling are.

But to be clear: it’s also a whole lotta nonsense, including the sudden appearance of ‘Tachyon,’ who Steve Gerber was perhaps going to spin off into a mini-series as per the 10-page ‘interlude’ which appends the main story. I think there’s some interesting world-building applied in this one-off, with Steve (maybe) thinking to do a riff on competing faiths – how different points of view make the same situation appear varied – but it’s impossible to really know what this could’ve amounted to. That said, whereas Total Eclipse simply gets a pass for being kooky, I’m never going to pick up the other issues; Tachyon – my Gerber obsession aside – may have merited a glance at a succeeding issue to see if the world-building that was started here would’ve been developed further.

There’s also a partial history of Eclipse in the back (presumably continued from and into other TE issues) which is a good read.