“DV8: Neighborhood Threat” has the distinction of being one of the few Warren Ellis written comics that I wouldn’t even recommend to his completists. That is, unless you want to see what it’s like when he can’t even muster up the energy to entertain himself and trades on shock value that won’t faze anyone familiar with his Vertigo and Avatar work. However, it impressed writer Brian Wood way back in the day as he has stated in interviews that he’s been trying to tell this story at Wildstorm for years. They finally gave him, and artist Rebekah Isaacs, the chance to do so before the imprint was shut down last year. It’s certainly a flawed work, but I have to give Wood this: the story at least has a GREAT IDEA behind it.
The GREAT IDEA is dumping the collective of teenage sociopaths that is DV8 on a primitive world where they are regarded as gods thanks to their superhuman abilities. Some members like the temperature-controlling Frostbite, size-shifting Powerhaus, and odds-runner Freestyle try to live in peace and/or better the natives’ lives. Others, like emotionally unstable telekinetic team leader Threshold, emotion-manipulator Bliss, density-shifting Sublime thrill to their newfound status and wholly embrace their godhood status.
Do they decide to all live peacefully in coalition with each other? Well, there’s a reason I used the word “sociopaths” to describe the team. Seeing how each member adapts to their status and what it leads them to do is the book’s strongest part. When he takes the time to flesh out his cast, Wood turns them from ciphers into characters with believable actions and motivations for what they do. The conflict they find themselves embroiled in feels inevitable rather than dictated by the plot, and I wish that Wood had the time and remit to follow this conflict through to the end.
You see, there was a reason these kids were dumped on the planet and it was apparently to redefine their place in the Wildstorm universe. As said universe is now set to integrate into the DC Universe proper, it’s not hard to see how the ending could be anything but unsatisfying. I wound up wishing to see the war between the team members properly followed through before fate takes it out of their hands. The beginning is similarly underwhelming as we’re introduced to our “point of view” character Copycat while setting up a flashback structure that robs the story of some of its suspense. We’re also not given proper introductions to the cast, so it’s hard to be interested in their plight until we reach the issue dedicated to fleshing out a specific team member.
What isn’t flawed is the art from Rebekah Isaacs. She’s a real find by Wood, as she showed her chops in a memorable story from “DMZ” #50, and he was right to get her to illustrate this series. Her style is very clean and confident as you can get a feel for the characters and their emotions just by looking at them. Action scenes flow well and the panel-to-panel storytelling is very clear and easy to follow. I can easily see her moving on to bigger and better things after this.
While I like the GREAT IDEA behind this book and how most of it was executed, in the end I have to regard it as a noble failure. It ultimately comes off as inconsequential, and you’re left with the feeling that Wood would’ve been better off if he had created his own characters and done the story without tying it to a major superhero universe. Yes, the DV8 team was ideally suited to this kind of story, but it’s hard to see how their ultimate fate is really a step up for them -- even if Wildstorm hadn’t shut down immediately afterwards. It’s not bad, but probably best picked up in a half-off bin at Comic-Con.