I finally got my hands on the last of Jonathan Hickman’s pre-Marvel Image projects and it turned out to be one of his more successful endeavors. On paper it’s the story of superpowered individuals in the future working to combat the threat of an unstoppable alien horde coming to annihilate the Earth. While everyone is coming together to fight this threat, the sole holdout is the most powerful metahuman in the Solar System -- Mars. He’s the story’s Superman analogue and what sets him apart from other takes on the character is that this being was originally raised in the hard times of the Dark Ages. So aside from being over a thousand years old, he also has some particular and violent ideas about how society should function. Characterization (when he’s not working with characters who have an established history) isn’t one of Hickman’s strong suits, so Mars and the rest of the cast aren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve and should’ve been.
Really, these people wind up being soundpieces for the writer’s strength: his ideas, and there are some novel ones here. At its core is the progression of the ideal utopia from eternity, to liberty, to equality, and finally fraternity in the space of the four issues collected here. Each issue tackles a single idea and does so in a surprisingly logical way by first establishing Mars as the story’s Superman/God figure, and then showing the rest of the superhumans’ efforts to solve the problem without him. There are also plenty of other interesting ideas strewn throughout the story such as the control-based ideology of the aliens, Ars Poetica -- The God Gun, and a Frenchman killing English to ensure the supremacy of the English language. Ryan Bodenheim also gives us some strong, finely detailed art though the constantly changing color scheme of the book seems to be done just because it can rather than for any good reason. If you needed more proof of why Hickman is one of the premier talents in the industry today, then you’ll find that here.