The events of this spin out of something called The Culling, a Superboy/Teen Titans crossover (two titles that are also full of young characters that are horribly designed) which I didn’t read, but I get the basic gist that this is about some super-teens that were kept in a facility and trained to be killers escaping and trying to go home. It’s like We3, but with 1000% more whining, 0% robot animals blowing stuff up, and horribly drawn. Seriously, Ian Churchill draws at least three characters looking nearly identical to each other. They’re vaguely dark-skinned, too, which makes me feel like a jerk for saying they all look the same, so thanks for that, Mr. Churchill. Also, for some reason, Caitlin Fairchild (the leader of this ragtag group) is depicted on the cover wearing a bikini in the Arctic, while the interior art has her in a more practical battlesuit, though you do get some cheesecake shots of the New 52′s Terra and a girl named Brighteyes, who shows some skin to get a guy to play favorites with her, only for him to throw her to the merciless killers that pursue the group, so yay comics industry!
What really gets me is that we’re obviously supposed to be invested in whether these kids can pull together, escape their pursuers, and regain their humanity, but Howard Mackie‘s way of getting that across is to tell us point blank that’s the conflict on the first page, and then have Fairchild continually state it. In We3, Morrison and Quitely depicted 1, 2, and 3 as having conflicting personalities and odd tics, often with the bare minimum of dialogue, which made the ways they worked (or didn’t work) together that much more involving. Then again, they were firing on all sorts of different cylinders for that, experimenting with page layouts, animal psychology and physiology, and combining animal rights with criticisms of the military-industrial complex, mixing plots and themes from The Incredible Journey, Richard Adams’ novel Watership Down, and even a little of Kurosawa’s samurai films in a pop-punk mix. Mackie and Churchill aren’t up to that level, but the material’s right there: broken people on the edge of the world, hunted by an unstoppable enemy. It’s a chance to insert some Jack London into cape comics narrative–Fairchild muses “Will freedom be enough to liberate them? Or is too late to save them from themselves?” and later that they must “Take the plunge”–but free will and survival of the fittest appear to be cogs in the plot machine, rather than ideas to explore and develop. Churchill certainly doesn’t get any mileage out of the cold landscape outside of the first page (where he does an admittedly cool image of the shoreline), opting for tighter shots and barely drawn backgrounds, and Mackie shows there’s a reason his writing at Marvel never amounted to anything above passable escapism. Any creative team with more ambition could have made this premise sing, rather than drone.
(Written by Howard Mackie, Drawn by Ian Churchill, Published by DC)