Aliens are invading! Los Angeles is doomed! The world is next, unless its superheroes can convince the one man capable of saving it to do so! That man: Peter Cannon, a man who is capable of seeing nine times more than others due to the scrolls of a dead people who were unjustly wiped from the Earth. Peter may not care for civilization much, but he realizes that the continued survival of people are its best chance of actually turning into something worthwhile. So he helps the heroes out, the world is saved, and nations that were on the brink of war are now talking peace to each other. It should be reason for everyone to celebrate. Peter knows better, however. He knows that this interdimensional attack was an attempt to artificially provoke unity on a divided earth. How does Peter know this? Because the person who orchestrated it all was… him?
Peter Cannon was a superhero created in the 60’s and originally published by Charlton Comics. He was also the inspiration for Ozymandias in “Watchmen” and that’s what writer Kieron Gillen is taking specific aim at here. This five-issue series isn’t his rebuttal to that series. It’s his rebuttal to an industry that never quite got past that seminal work. So the writer, and artist Caspar Wijngaard give us a protagonist and an antagonist who can both wield the form(alism) of comics against each other. The difference being that one is married to the work that made him God in a hermetically sealed universe, while the other is trying to find new ways to grow. No points for guessing who wins in the end.
Still, wringing a story about the medium of comics and “Watchmen’s” impact would likely be a dull read if it were just about that. So it’s good that we’ve got someone like Gillen who wields wit and pathos like razor blades here. There’s funny stuff spliced in amongst scenes of bloody violence, and genuine emotion wrung out of things like Peter hanging out in a bar for a whole issue. Which is both a jarring but impressive stylistic homage on the part of the creators to one of the seminal indie creators of the 90’s. The whole package is like reading an essay in comics form, but one where the creators haven’t forgotten the need to tell a good story at the same time. Packed with bonuses, including Gillen’s original pitch, and printed in an oversized format that does great justice to Wijngaard’s art, this hardcover is absolutely worth its $30 cover price.