Biting off more than we can chew is the theme we’re looking at this week.
It happens. I mean, there’s something to be said for striving for a goal: that’s admirable and something we teach our kids to do, right? Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon, remember that old chestnut? But in our quest for success, sometimes we overachieve and trying to do too much interferes with our success.
But that doesn’t stop us from trying and more often we succeed, and boy, does it feel good to plant your feet squarely on that moon.
Let’s get to the list for this week.
To defeat the Nazis in a world in which the Second World War was lost makes for a lot to achieve.
I’ve always loved the premise of this super-group from the early 1970’s in which the last bastion of American idealism is embodied in a group of freedom-loving superbeings who originally continued the fight after 1945.
In this new incarnation of the book, from Robert Venditti and Eddy Barrows, the Freedom Fighters are set in the modern age in which a third generation of Hitlers – father and son – now lead the Reich from an occupied United States. Uncle Sam, the spirit of America disappeared when America was broken, but the new spirit of revolution brought about by this latest generation heroes has resurrected him and brought him back into fighting form.
To rescue a subjugated nation after decades of foreign rule sounds like the impossible task we are talking about. After all, over this time, families have nearly forgotten what freedom was like and sometimes, it becomes just about getting by in life. However, the Freedom Fighters have a plan … of sorts.
Despite its great heritage, fantastic art and, to be frank, excellent character empathy on the part of Venditti and Barrows, this book has a problem. The scope is too much to achieve in such a limited issue arc. Slated to be only a 12-issue min-series, it has years of alternate history to encompass, twisted versions of Nazi-influenced heroes (like the PlaSStic Men and Overman, in both his natural and cyborg forms) as well as an original story that does due justice to the original comic’s legacy.
There are only two issues left and while I’ve enjoyed the book so far, I’m concerned that it won’t be able to cover the distance and finish on a satisfying note. There’s not a lot of story room left and this issue saw a crucial story development that revealed the real enemy who would be a lot of fun to hate. I just hope we get enough time to do that, but two issues of story left doesn’t seem like it.
I honestly hope I’m wrong. In fact, what I’d love is for this series to do well enough to be picked up as its own series on a permanent basis.
Being a teen-ager is hard enough, but caring for a disabled parent as well as dealing with attacks from eldritch forces is something that no teen-ager should have to put up with. But Tim Hunter is no normal teen; as loyal readers of this series already know, Tim is a young magician entrusted with the care of books of powerful magic.
Seriously, with so many social issues facing our kids in our society, it just seems like being a magician would be enough to drive this kid over the edge, especially a kid like Tim whose dad has a physical disability, an absent mother and not a lot of friends he can count on. Sometimes, getting a decent meal and coping with their family issues and homework counts as overachievement for these kids.
In this issue, Tim decides that he needs to break the enchantments that are binding his dad’s freedom of will and perception. But Tim is inexperienced and young and he begins to realize that not just magic can break this type of magic. The way that he will achieve a resolution to this problem will be with a type of maturity that he will need to develop.
That’s something that teachers need when teaching kids. Youthful willfulness and a desire to be recognized as capable are strong traits to have when growing up. They give way to identity and confidence, but in the process, they sometimes sacrifice mature perspective in recognizing the greater good. But kids will be kids, right?
Tom Fowler and Kat Howard have developed a set of characters in this story who an audience can relate to and understand. Kids will be kids, but it’s great to see kids overcome and succeed. They can be bad-tempered and demonstrate frustration in the learning process, but eventually they begin to see their way and teachers are privileged to see that sort of growth happen.
That’s what we get in this issue. While we get a view at how Tim’s problems are affecting his few friends, we also see how they are adapting to the situation. We also see their growth independent of his own. This is a story of human drama set within an extreme and hostile fantasy environment and yet somehow, Tim manages to see his way through.
While Tim has his plate full, it’s refreshing and satisfying to see him discover his own maturity and we take pride in his successes. This issue was a loving family story that reminds us of the importance of family to those young overachievers.
But then, we get Star Wars; the most ambitious film in history and tagged the greatest space-fantasy of them all.
Aside from this comic alone, the universe of Star Wars has perpetuated a story that has lasted nearly over fifty years. Despite its origins in the 1970’s, this story has become a staple fandom that has grown beyond the dreams of its original cast, crew and creator.
If that isn’t over-achievement, then I don’t know what is.
Greg Pak and Phil Noto have perfectly captured the spirit of this film with their interweaving of multiple plot lines within this single book. With three groups of rebel warriors, on three different planets trying to achieve vastly different objectives, it’s a mark of real storytelling that by the time of this issue, Noto and Pak have brought all three of these groups back together and unify the sub-plots back to a coherent storyline.
But that’s the essence of Star Wars.
The frantic pace of the film is perfectly communicated in this comic by Noto and Pak. First, Noto’s gifted ability with likenesses gives us recognizable characters who are clearly a large visual reason of communicating the basic familiarity of the film in the book. Any devoted fan of this franchise is going to be turned off by an artist’s inability to reproduce the characters we know and love so well. To see them in action is like going back in time to the decade of the original trilogy.
That’s clear romanticism. The best fantasy stories are romances and Greg Pak gives us idealism, values, and heroic virtues when Chewbacca and C3P0 refuse to destroy planet K43 in their mission against the Empire when they discover it has sentient life on it. Luke meets a Force sensitive scoundrel who despite her jaded cynicism, he still has faith and hope in. Leia and Han develop their relationship further when Leia meets up with an old flame on the planet Lanz Carpo – it has everything that a fan could expect to see in a story in the original film series.
There is no sense of contrivance in this story. Pak is obviously a devoted fan of the series and has faithfully reproduced its ambition.
But that’s an example of overachievement in itself. The fact that Pak can fabricate a story that matches the ambition of its original creator is something to be – pardon the pun – marvelled at.
That’s why it has to be the pick of the week for this week. It’s just such a triumph of devotion that it needs to be celebrated. Every nuance, whether it’s in character relationships, story development, or art accuracy, is perfectly captured in this issue.
… and it’s not even a crucial one to the story arc. That’s not just talent, that’s love and sometimes that’s a reason for why we overachieve.
Hopefully you’ll find something to love in your overachievements this week.