Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing The Green Team 1, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Patrick: Ethan and I both live in LA, but since I live in Hollywood and he lives in Culver City, we don’t make the cross-city trek very often to see each other. To compensate for this totally-surmountable distance between us, we’ll send texts to each other that basically mirror the kind of nonsense conversations he and I will have in the comment sections of our articles. He sent me this link last Friday to a great Wondermark comic about Batman. (Totally worth the click, FYI.) Basically, the strip pokes fun at Bruce Wayne’s application of his vast fortune to fight crime through superheroics, and not through research and philanthropy and politics and charity. It’s not a totally fair assessment of how Bruce spends his money — he does invest a lot of money into Gotham infrastructure — but the point is crystal clear: aren’t there better uses of fortunes than outfitting a Batman? Art Baltazar and Franco’s The Green Team looks like it’s going to address this question head on, but then veers into dully familiar superhero territory.
This issue introduces us to The Green Team by way of a Pop-Up Expo (or Poxpo, because confusing portmanteaus are fun). Prince Mohammed Qahtanii, or Mo for short, is attending the conference as a fan of the GTs efforts, but he’s trying to keep a low profile because his ultra-rich father wouldn’t approve of him running around with this crowd. “Who is the Green Team?” you ask? We’ve got J.P. and L.L. Houston, the son and daughter (respectively) of a Texas oil tycoon; a movie starlet named Cecilia Sunbeam who totes a cheetah cub around with her like it’s a handbag pomeranian; and Commodore Murphy (it’s a name, not a title), an ultra-rich technophile and advocate for research and development. That’s what the Poxpo is all about: Commodore is essentially auditioning projects that he’d like to fund. Unfortunately, the whole Expo is set upon by a small army of masked weirdos – they were tipped off to the location by Mo live-tweeting the thing. Commodore activates his favorite piece of technology, a suit of
Iron Man armor, and he starts to punch his way out of trouble.
As this is the first issue, there are an awful lot of characters and concepts introduced here. I can’t tell if setting the whole thing at an Exposition serves as a mea culpa for Baltazar and Franco, but there’s so much clumsy exposition in this issue that there’s actually a point where one character says to another “No, it’s all very interesting, really. I… I knew it all already…” And yet, for all the exposition, I can’t say that I have a firm handle on any of these characters – particularly J.P. and Cecilia, who don’t come off as charity-minded at all. In fact, I feel like I’m meeting Baltazar and Franco more than halfway when I assume that these kids have philanthropic aims at all: their Instagram feed basically makes them look like vain, rich assholes.
DC’s got a dearth of “teen” titles at the moment – the “Young Justice” group consists of the long-suffering Teen Titans and Legion of Superheroes (which will be publishing its final issue in August). So I get desire to develop some more teen-oriented content. To the creative team on The Green Team, that means fully embracing internet culture. I’ve mentioned Instagram and Twitter already in this write-up – this is an example of these writers tapping into the internet in a way that people — and teenagers, specifically — actually use it. But then there’s a car at the Poxpo that’s “powered by the internet.” Nonsensically, you can set the car to whatever metric you want, so getting a tweet favorited by a bunch of your followers could be powering the car. That plays into the fantasy that we all have of gaining power when a Facebook post gets a lot of attention, or when an article you write gets reblogged by someone else. It’s totally illogical, but it speaks to a deeper truth about how we value attention on social media – I hope it sticks around as a major factor for this team.
For as clever as that conceit is, there are a few too many “clever” beats that don’t land for me. And the problem is usually exacerbated by Baltazar and Franco going out of their way to explain how fucking clever they are. Usually this comes in the form of grayed-out speech balloons, allowing the characters to editorialize in a whisper. It smacks of a self-awareness that’s often too shit-eating for its own good. And then they have L.L. misuse slang, which is like a cardinal sin when you’re trying to be clever.
You don’t use “crunk” unless drugs or alcohol are actually part of the equation – no one uses it metaphorically.
Also, the Green Team has nicknamed their leader “64” because he stands to inherit 64 trillion dollars (a truly insane amount of money). The kid’s real name is Commodore. Get ready to call green, teen DC-Iron-Man “Commodore 64.” I can’t tell which end of the clever-scale this falls on. Obnoxious? Fun? Obnoxious but fun anyway?
So Shelby, how do you feel about this team? They’re immediately less active and less sympathetic than their counterparts in The Movement. I maintain that there are rich concepts worth exploring in this title, but I think I need the characters to be a little more grounded, and the creative team to be a little less concerned with being clever. Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time bandying about technological innovations, we could have seen any of these characters take any action of any kind.
Shelby: Patrick, you posed the question, “Obnoxious, fun, or obnoxious and fun?” and I think this title is gearing up to be the latter. There’s no way I can feel sympathetic to a boy worth more money than I can understand, or a girl who’s biggest problem is her cheetah’s stinky breath, and I think that is exactly where we are supposed to be with this group. The most grounded character, the one we’re supposed to identify with, is an actual prince. Maybe we’re given a shallow approach here for issue one, or maybe these guys are actually just that shallow; only time will tell if Baltazar and Franco can hold long-term interest with that.
I know I am intrigued by this group of spoiled socialites. Does Commodore have altruistic intentions for this technology he’s trying to develop, or is he just looking for a way to pass the time? We don’t even know at this point if any one other than Comm on the Green Team actually wants to be a superhero. J.P. is largely against it, and I can’t imagine Cecilia caring in the least, so what sort of team is being formed? What is most intriguing to me is that this book exists in the DC universe; issue three promises an appearance by Deathstroke. Of all the characters in the world I would expect to show up and deal with these rich teens, Slade Wilson is very near the bottom of my list. If Deathstroke exists in this world, that means Batman does as well; could that be the real influence for Comm’s desire to be a superhero? Again, it begs the question of what exactly drives Comm in this endeavor. Does he seek justice? Does he want to improve people’s lives by eliminating crime? Or does he want to be cool like Batman? I mean, I wouldn’t blame him if he just wanted to be like The Bat, but if his superhero dreamings don’t have something more substantive behind them, I don’t think he’ll get very far.
Despite my interest in the concept, you’re not wrong about the awkward exposition. The issue is largely just people walking around and talking, people we know very little about. My hope is that Baltazar and Franco are just butting up against the normal problems one runs into with the first issue of a completely new series. I want to wait at least a couple more issues before really passing judgement on this title. All-in-all, it’s a promising start, with plenty of room for both success and failure. Baltazar and Franco certainly aren’t afraid of jumping in feet first; next month’s cover shows Cecelia with a bionic arm. I guess Riot is going to make good on their promise to tear her apart.
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?