DC begins its Fifth Wave of the New 52 by looking out for the little guy in the DC Universe. Is this a movement, or still a little backed-up?
When the announcement of The Movement and companion title The Green Team came, two books that aimed to piggyback on the Occupy Movement and examine the class struggle between the 99% and the 1%, it seemed that DC had finally gone off the deep end. There had been some odd choices for lead characters since the inception of the Newish 52, but with so many iconic names still on the benches, why make a flagship out of a group of nobodies? Which is kind of the point of The Movement, brought to us by the impressive creative team of Gail Simone (Batgirl) and Freddie Williams II (Captain Atom).
Set in Coral City, the shocking corruption of the local police department is exposed when a video of attempt bribery and sexual harassment goes viral. What begins to emerge at the scene of these crimes are not just a group of misfits turned heroes, but a faceless army of outcasts who wear the mask of The Movement and unite as one. The super-powered group soon establishes themselves as a force that owns the troubled ‘Tweens district of the city, but despite their good intentions, questions are immediately raised about the safety of entrusting the protection of a city to people with such unrestrained power.
In an interview with Big Shiny Robot, author Simone commented: “The thing I find fascinating and a little bit worrisome is, what happens when a hacktivist group whose politics you find completely repulsive has this same kind of power and influence.” The political voice of The Movement become immediately apparent in this book, although it is difficult at this stage to determine exactly whether Simone (and DC) are supporting the idea of a grassroots superhero movement, or like many large media organisations, see it as a threat to their investments in the established global economy. Here activism and super powers are interchangeable: both can be used for good or for evil.
The Movement certainly isn’t the first book to plumb the depths of social protest, with Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta somewhat setting a template for this sort of thing back in the 1980s. Indeed, Simone’s Movement has adopted a readily available shiny and anonymising mask, a similar device to Moore and Lloyd’s Guy Fawkes mask that has in turn inspired real-life protest groups Anonymous and the Occupy movement itself. Simone’s super-powered twist may pay off over the months, and it certainly makes for a more interesting take than another superhero reboot, but a familiar issue emerges. With the lack of any recognisable DC characters, will this ragtag group be able to pull the crowds? They have generic names like Mouse (a pied piper figure), Tremor (earthquakes) and Katharsis. Add to this ill-defined powers (one character can “ride emotions”), and it’s already a struggle to remember the leads by the end of the first issue let alone invest time with them.
Williams does an impressive job on the interior art, crafting distinct visuals for the new characters, even if their personalities don’t quite stand out yet. His style suits the streets of Coral City far more than it ever did for Green Arrow, and it will be interesting to see this book evolve over time.
Which brings us back to the million dollar question: will this movement last? DC have had no qualms in cancelling Third and Fourth Wave titles only months after their initial solicitation, and it is a wonder how long they think this untested formula will last in their turbulent line-up. The Movement is a bold experiment for mainstream comics, and is something that would be more at ease with the (admittedly disintegrating) Vertigo or even over at the rival Image Comics. Yet perhaps DC, Simone and Williams should simply be praised for pushing the concept of what a DC Comic can be, and building something entirely new. Whether this is a book for the 99% or 1% is yet to be seen.
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