Team 7 2

Alternating Currents: Team 7 2, Taylor and Patrick

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Team 7 2, originally released November 14th, 2012.

Taylor: Teams are in. Everywhere we look in today’s society, teamwork is emphasized as being one of the most important skills to develop. When you apply for a job, employers want to know how well you work with others and what your contribution to the team will be. Sports stars are lauded for the ability to swallow their ego and function as a member of a team that functions as one unit. And speaking of teams, we can’t ignore the recent Avengers movie which was one of biggest team love-fests to ever grace the silver screen. Hell, even Batman, the quintessential solitary dark night, learned to work on a team in Christopher Nolan’s latest film. Indeed, it seems that the way of the lone wolf — your Clint Eastwoods and wandering Ronin — is a thing of the past. Given this favorable disposition towards the idea of teamwork, it seems like DC’s Team 7 would be an instant hit. But as the second issue demonstrates both in its plot and it its execution, sometimes getting a team to work together effectively is harder than it would first appear.

The second issue of Team 7 opens with our “heroes” continuing their battle with the Eclipsed zombies they discovered at the end of the first issue. While the team kicks a significant amount of ass with guns blazing, they are outnumbered by the Eclipsed zombies and have to make a retreat and regroup. They make their way to the communications center of the Float where Dinah discovers a video feed that explains exactly where the Eclipsed monsters came from. It turns out the government was trying to develop a serum that would pacify dangerous criminals and turn them into productive members of society. However, in what has to be one of the dumbest ideas ever, they tried to develop this serum from Dr. Jekyll’s formula, which makes its appearance in All Star Western. When they injected the serum into John Akara (from issue 0) he turns into a monster, kills some scientists, then transforms the remaining inmates on the Float into similar evil zombie/monsters/vampire things. The Team finds Akara, a battle ensues and they kill him, but they soon realize that the float is heading towards Sentinel Island in order to free Eclipso.

Stories about teams and teamwork all follow a similar pattern. First the team is gathered, then they underperform because they fail to work together, then they learn to work together, and lastly they accomplish their goal by functioning as a unit. We see this pattern emerge a little bit in this issue and while I can appreciate that it is a standard practice, I’m not sure that it is employed very usefully or tactically in this issue. Dinah, acting as narrator, voices her concerns about the ability of Team 7 to actually work together to accomplish their goals, a sentiment that is shared by John Lynch when he narrated the first issue. While it’s certainly believable that these two would share similar doubts about Team 7, from a story telling perspective it’s somewhat redundant and places two characters into the same role. It would have been more gratifying to see Dinah’s character taken in a different direction in this issue to better develop her not only as a character, but also as a member of a narrative team. What further complicates the role she is assigned is that Team 7 doesn’t actually appear to ever be challenged or in danger so their ability to work together is never actually tested, making her concerns seem questionable. So far Team 7’s ability to shoot their way out of any tight spot seems to do the trick.

Similarly, the tone of the overall series to this point is kind of odd. Every member of Team 7 is apparently a smart ass who loves to comment on the team’s ability to work together or the actions of its various members. While I’m not opposed to the use of comic relief in any way, I found it off-putting when every character we are supposed to care about takes so little of what is going on seriously. This left me wondering what tone writer Justin Jordan is going for in this title. Is it supposed to be light and kind of goofy as the dialogue suggests or is it supposed to be more serious minded as the plot would have us believe? And this ultimately relates back to the very concept of a narrative team that I mentioned earlier. If only one member of Team 7 acted as comic relief then a more solid tone could be set, however, when every character is cracking jokes the issue begins to resemble parody as opposed to adventure. The use of one comic relief is executed quite well in Justice League Dark with Deadman acting as the comic and the effect is a title that has a stable — yet fun — tone. Regardless of all that, I will say that I laughed quite a bit when I saw Bronson flying out of control in his heavy suit. 

So Patrick, what tone do you think this issue was going for? Am I trying to read this title too straight or is it still searching for its true voice? Should I be having more fun with it?

Patrick: Team 7 taps into a very specific kind of action comic — the guns ‘n’ muscle comics of the 1990s. It’s the kind of environment that assholes like Cable and Duke Nukem came crashing out of. Jordan’s characters are a little bit more graceful than that, but it is sorta hard to escape the “everyone’s a comedian” group dynamic you mentioned. I wouldn’t even mind everyone making jokes if it felt like they were making different kinds of jokes — that’s how Firefly kept its merry band of wise-asses in check. But literally, over the course of four panels, both Amanda Waller and Grifter make the same joke.

Two pages later, Bronson theorizes that the weaponized serum could be used against Americans and Deathstroke replies “”It could only improve Washington” — which, for those of you keeping score at home — counts as the exact same joke.

So while I think the series is intended to be one of those tricky exercises that walks the line between homage and parody, I’m not convinced Jordan’s displaying a sophisticated enough level of humor to actually pull that off. Taylor, you mention how ridiculous it is that everyone keeps saying that this team doesn’t work well together, when it seems like they obviously work fine together. What doesn’t work out so well is juggling all these characters in a single adventure narrative. The cover teases “Dinah and Slade Battle the Eclipsed” but the alternate cover teases “Before and After: The Team of Black Canary & Lance.” Focusing on a pair of these characters while the others run around like idiots in the background would be great. Mostly, it’d be manageable — both for the readers and Jordan. And despite the claims on the cover, Waller and Higgins are the two characters most strongly characterized here: Waller for her resourcefulness and Higgins for his headstrong bravery.

Oh, side-note Taylor — that’s Higgins flying by in the heavy armed suit, not Bronson. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to look that up before saying for certain. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why this team is so fucking huge. The Justice League is smaller than this, and I know all those characters from other places. Most of these guys haven’t had an opportunity to be developed beyond a single quip or the color of their hair. Dinah comes so close to giving me what I want when she lists the pairs that work well together:

The implication that Slade and Fairchild have this kind of bro-y relationship that works really well, but is also maybe hilariously affectionate, is awesome. Why can’t I see that relationship portrayed here instead of simply mentioned by Dinah in voice-over?

The art in this issue is a little wonky. On the one hand, it’s amazing how well all eight characters are accounted for in just about every panel. But on the other hand, faces tend to distort in the least expressive way possible. Also, some of the body proportions seems way off to me (exactly how much shit is Amanda Waller lugging around with her? also, girl, take off that hat: you’re inside). Ron Frenz is credited with the “Breakdowns” and Julius Gopez is the credited penciler, so I guess that explains that difference in quality.

For whatever reason, I can’t escape the feeling that Justin Jordan will find a voice that works for this series — perhaps one that’s neither as jokey as this issue or as antagonistic as the previous. I’m never left feeling that these characters are shallow, but I am often disappointed by how little of them we actually get to see. Maybe that’s me offering too much credit where none is due, but I’d like to have fun with these characters. I just feel like we’re always gonna be one great issue away from that happening.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

21 comments on “Team 7 2

  1. When I reviewed Suicide Squad 14 I mentioned that the characters suffered from a lack of charm. I feel the same exact way about this book as well. However an additional problem with this book is the HUGE cast as mentioned here. I have the same question you do Patrick, why is this team so big? I really hope they kill off a few characters or move them out of the book to allow Jordan more focus. More focus and infusing some more charm into these characters would really benefit this book. While I feel similarly to this book as I do Suicide Squad, I think T7 is much closer to being successful than the other.

    • The size of this team really is a problem. It’s almost impossible to keep track of who is a specialist in what area and what their role on the team should be. Also, how are all of these characters going to be developed when there is only so much space to do so every month? A reduction in the cast would certainly help but it seems like that would be weird to do so early on in the title.

      • I think it is more than the size that is the issue here–it is how Team 7 is being used. Right now everyone is mashed together into the same space in the same story with no differentiation in role or objective (except, as Shelby noted, the pilot, who I had totally forgotten about…).

        There are good examples of large team books that manage team dynamics well–the old Stormwatch with Warren Ellis comes to mind. There was an even larger cast there, but they were divided into three-person teams, each with a distinct purpose, along with a few support characters. This made the larger cast more manageable, even when multiple teams were being featured in a single story. And there was effort put into giving each character a unique voice. One issue even had Winter, the field commander, take six characters out, teleporting with them to their favorite bars around the world to get to know them better–also a great way to let the reader get to know them.

        Legion of Superheroes (particularly Mark Waid’s 2004 reboot) also had a gigantic cast, which was managed by giving a few key characters strong voices and central roles, and then rotating through minor characters (some of whom became more prominent as the story progressed). Team 7 could really benefit by taking any approach to better manage and distinguish the cast. I agree with Patrick that Jordan is probably capable of this, and is maybe trying to show us the “team” before showing us individual members (that sounds wrong, somehow). But whatever, I am quickly losing interest in this title….

        • Yes – absolutely – a large ensemble isn’t a deal breaker (big LOST fans on this site). But it’s clearly an element of the narrative that has only served to muddle it so far. Until we have a sense of who all these guys are (as written by Jordan), it’s not really fun to see them work together. But it seems like Jordan hasn’t worked out a way to showcase these personalities, so he just defaults to the jokey jackass (because that sort of thing is so very popular these days). I still thing the zero issue of this title was largely underrated – even here at Retcon Punch. There’s a solid character moment for everyone… accept the pilot because who ever cares about the pilot?

          It might end up biting me in the ass, but I’m going to wait until a few issues after this first arc has wrapped to make a final judgement about the intelligence of this series. I get that JJ wants to show the team in “action” before breaking out into the much more satisfying character work. It’ll take a while, but hey – that’s what potential is.

  2. This book has yet to convince me why I should care. It has an uphill battle, what with our knowing that the group eventually dissolves, but that could be overcome if why it fails were an interesting story. Unfortunately, the story right now seems to be: nobody thought the team would work well, it didn’t, and now it doesn’t exist anymore. Wouldn’t the team’s impending demise be WAY more interesting if we were invested in the team’s success? Or, if we thought the team worked well together? Wouldn’t some more generic villains — who wouldn’t steal any spotlight from the team — be a more appropriate choice while we’re still trying to get to know these characters? Like, why not show them working/training together, allowing them to establish relationships with one another?

    Right now, we can’t even remember which one Higgins is, let alone what he cares about, or how he feels about each other member of the team. Ideally, we’d have a sense of how any combination of these characters might act locked in a room together (the way you might with, say, Seinfeld), but we’re still struggling with their basic roles on the team. I get that that stuff takes time, but we really don’t seem to be on the path to getting to know these characters — at the end of this issue, I feel like I know Eclipso better than half of the team.

  3. Patrick, I think Firefly is a good comparison for this title but I think we need to acknowledge that it is certainly the exception and not the norm. It’s pretty rare for characters to spring fully formed from the head of their creators and it’s pretty obvious they have not in this title. I’m not saying they won’t get there eventually but for the time being they’re basically all the same character but with a altered character design and slightly different skill sets. That being said, I think a good groundwork has been laid for this title and I share you’re hope that it will develop a more focused tone.

    • I think we should make a distinction between characters being poorly-drawn from the start, and those that are well-drawn, but haven’t yet been fully introduced to the audience. At the end of the zero issue, it was impossible to tell what we were dealing with, so I think we all gave the title the benefit of the doubt. With each passing issue — and with weak characterization, as demonstrated in Patrick’s example — it seems like Jordan doesn’t have a strong sense of these characters. Sure, sometimes VERY talented writers can just get themselves in the thick of it and hope to find their characters, but for an ensemble cast like this one, I don’t think some preliminary biographical sketches would be too much to ask.

      I don’t want to rule out the possibility that Jordan does have that sense of character for everyone, but three issues in, he has yet to convey that sense to us. Thinning the herd might be the first step in making that possible.

    • Taylor, I know that Joss Whedons don’t grow on trees (unfortunately) but I also know that there are TONS of writers out there that can do a better job right out of the gate than Jordan is doing right now. Why DC is going after writers like Jordan versus others (imagine the submissions DC must get) is beyond me. That said, Jordan actually IS dealing with a lot of characters that were at one point pretty fully formed. I mean, I know that these characters have been rebooted, but the fact that they’ve been around for decades (Black Canary 1947, Deathstroke, ’80, Waller ’87) should at the very least give Jordan a blueprint of how these characters should act. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that Jordan has a few cliffsnotes at best.

      • It’s not the first time that I see a writer acting like he doesn’t know the character he’s using for his New 52 story.
        For example, what made Lobo special was his irony and his “I don’t give a damn” attitude: on the contrary, in Deathstroke 9 – 12 he was incredibly serious and one dimensional.
        Another example: in Grifter # 14, the leading character fights Midnighter. Midnighter has superpowers, but he NEVER uses them. Midnighter has the gift of being able to predict his foe’s next move, so why Grifter succeeds in giving him so many punches?
        You could replace both Lobo and Midnighter with ANY DC characters and the book wouldn’t change at all. The dialogue is also generic, so it wouldn’t matter which superhero in the book was speaking it… The story would still read the same.

      • P.S.: I love your blog, by the way. You also reply to the comments you receive, which is something that should be the rule, but I’m learning that it’s an exception for a lot of bloggers. Hope to read a new post from you soon! : )

        • Hey man, thanks a lot! I really do appreciate that. I’ve been really busy with Retcon-Punch but I am working on my next post for A Wild Crisis. It’s about Grant Morrison’s Multiversity so it should be a good one! Again, thanks for your support and I LOVE to read people’s comments so thank you for contributing!

          As for what you were saying with Grifter and Deathstroke, I didn’t read those books but it sounds like this is a recurring problem with these “action” books. We all love a good brawl and shoot-em-up, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice characterization! It seems pretty clear to all of us what the problem with these books have been, hopefully DC is aware too.

      • In all forms of media I’m often surprised by the choices production companies make when it comes to writers. More often than not it seems like those writing the media we love aren’t the best choices and I think this might speak to the difficulty of the creative process in general. It’s hard to come up with truly interesting and quality stories week after week and to do so on a strict time frame probably makes the process even more difficult. I’m not necessarily trying to defend Jordan here but perhaps his struggles with this title should should make us appreciate the authors who do deliver issue after issue all the more. And to be fair, Whedon himself has produced some not so great stuff himself.

    • What’s really weird is a lot of these people are already fully-formed characters who have been seen elsewhere, some in their own titles.

  4. In Italy, when someone does something that worked in the past, but cannot work nowadays, we tell him/her “You must resign yourself to history.” This is exactly what Jordan needs to hear, because, as Patrick pointed out, this kind of comic book would have been a hit in the 90s, but it’s going to be a sure failure in the 10s.
    Anyway, as I wrote in my comment to your review of Team 7 # 1, I’m enjoying this series. The problem is, I’m enjoying it for the wrong reason: I like it because it’s so bad it’s good.

    • I totally get liking something for being so bad that it’s good; my shelf full of Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies is a testament to this fact. However, what’s frustrating about Team 7 is that it has the potential to be something really cool but it fails to deliver on this potential in a lot of ways. I would love to see a team of commandos taking out rouge superheroes but I’m not sure we will ever get that in this title. Maybe that has too many similarities to X-Men so DC is afraid to go that route.

      • “Maybe that has too many similarities to X-Men so DC is afraid to go that route”: The New 52 version of Blue Beetle (a obvious Spider Man clone) proves that DC is not afraid of copying Marvel, so this could happen. And it’s a great idea, by the way. Thank you for your reply! : )

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