Indie Comics Review: THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #2
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Tyler Crook
Colours: Tyler Crook
Letters: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Unbelievable Unteens #2: Unbelievable Unteens comic-book artist Jane Ito finds her world flipped upside down after discovering that the heroes from her comics were not so fictional and she herself was one of them and had powers. As she and the team of underdog heroes once known as the Unteens begin to come back together they slowly discover what happened to them, why their memories were wiped, and who was behind this evil plot.
In The Unbelievable Unteens #2, Jeff Lemire continues his story of a supposedly fictional superhero team discovering that their adventures actually happened. I really love how Lemire blurs the distinction between comics and reality in this story. Comic artist/writer Jane Ito discovers that the story she has been creating is actually her subconscious memories of her past adventures.
The art of Tyler crook helps Lemire blur this line between comics and the real world. The flashbacks are presented as if they are actual yellowing comic pages. The art in these sequences is bright and colourful, while the present sequences are a bit drab, but more detailed and realistically shaded.
As with a lot of Black Hammer titles, there are some identifiable inspirations that Lemire pays homage to. In this case, the Unteens are a young superhero team in the mold of the early Doom Patrol and X-Men comics. In fact, we see the Unteens training in something very much like the X-Men’s Danger Room.
Snapdragon also has some striking similarities to the X-Man Marvel Girl/Phoenix. Professor X was a father figure for Jean Grey, and Doctor Moniker is Snapdragon’s actual father. Also, she’s a powerful psychic, who seems to be losing control of her powers, which implies a similar story to the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Also, there are love the inevitable romantic subplots typical of team books of the era. Characters clearly in love with each other, but too afraid to express it. Or romantic triangles where two male characters both love the same female character. And now as these characters are recovering their memories they have to sort through these rediscovered feelings.
The original team finally reunites to find that one member didn’t lose his memories – Kid Boom. They find him working at a care facility, taking care of the comatose Snapdragon. The issue concludes with this revelation, leaving us with a number of questions. What happened to Snapdragon to put her in this state? And was it connected to whatever robbed the other Unteens of their memories? And why was Kid Boom not affected?
There is clearly a mystery here, and Lemire has set it up beautifully. I cannot wait until the next issue to learn more about what’s going on. I also have to wonder if there is some overarching plot going on in Lemire’s Black Hammer universe against superheroes in general. Between the team in the core Black Hammer title being exiled to a pocket dimension and the Unteens being robbed of their memories, I have to wonder if some force is keeping the heroes of this world to a minimum.
A cursory look at The Incredible Unteens might lead a reader to conclude that the title is rather derivative of the works that Lemire is paying homage to. But this title is more than a ripoff of the X-Men or Doom Patrol. Lemire is evoking that era by incorporating similar characters or situations, but he also adds his own original elements as well.
Also, he adds in modern sensibilities that weren’t evident in the originals. For example, neither the X-Men nor the Doom Patrol could boast having a black hero as part of the team. That would have been pretty much unheard during that era. But Jack Sabbath’s inclusion in the team feels natural, rather than anachronistic. He doesn’t feel like a politically correct insertion to sanitize a more racist time.
One of the best things about the Lemire’s Black Hammer universe is the depth of it. It’s not just evocative of a particular genre or era of comics, but reflects the entire history of the medium. And each new project reveals a new facet of the rich tapestry that makes up Lemire’s world. Lemire’s tributes to comics are always spot on and this tribute to the 60s era Doom Patrol and X-Men is no exception.