Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing The Movement 2, originally released June 5th, 2013.
Spencer: When The Movement (and its sister book, The Green Team) was first announced, I was a little leery of it. I feared that it would be a gimmick, that it’d be nothing but political preaching or a backwards attempt to be relevant. Fortunately, Gail Simone’s involvement convinced me to give it a chance, and I’m sure glad I did. Not only does The Movement use its political elements to create a fascinatingly complex morality for itself, but it also stands out as a particularly well-crafted team book in its own right.
Virtue gives the police they captured last issue the grand tour of their compound as she leads them to their cells, but any lesson she might be trying to teach is soured when Officer Whitt makes a counterpoint of his own. Frustrated, Virtue gathers the other super-powered members for a War Council, hoping to determine what to do with their prisoners. Tension mounts between Virtue, Katharsis, and Tremor, leading Katharsis to break out on her own to confront bigshot James Cannon about the Cornea Killer. Virtue and the rest, meanwhile, follow up on their own lead—bringing them face-to-face with the weather witch, Rainmaker.
I’m impressed by how quickly The Movement has found its footing. Starting a new team book requires a lot of juggling: you’ve got to establish individual team members, establish how they work together as a team (or how they fail to), establish the team’s purpose, etc. etc. The Movement faces an additional roadblock in the fact that the entire cast is basically composed of brand new characters, yet, by the end of Issue #2, all of these requirements have been met.
We know why these kids have assembled together, and why it’s necessary. We’ve seen how their different ideals lead to clashes. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen a clear, distinct voice from each character. Virtue is a compassionate leader; Tremor her calm, calculating, Spock-like right hand; Katharsis is boisterous, straightforward, and brutal; and Mouse and Burden are both very different kinds of unhinged.
Perhaps most impressive is the introduction of Vengeance Moth, who appears in a measly four panels yet instantly became one of my new favorite characters.
This issue may have slowed down slightly to allow us to get to know the team better, but it still packs quite a punch, both literally (with Katharsis’ wonderfully brutal fight scene) and figuratively, as it continues to explore various shades of gray through the Movement’s activities.
Right off the bat Virtue tells the captured police officers a story about the 181 women killed in the sweatshop they now use as their headquarters. She’s trying to teach them something (Tremor later says they were supposed to convince the officers to confess to their crimes), but Officer Whitt turns things back around on her.
While it’s definitely not wrong to call Virtue out here, I don’t really think these two situations compare. The 181 were abused, mistreated workers abandoned to die, while these two officers are far from innocent, and even as prisoners, are being treated far kinder than any of the 181 were (I doubt any of them were ever offered Fruit Snacks, for example).
Still, this exchange does rekindle our discussion on just how these kids are handling their movement. Let’s start by taking a look at the War Council. Their plan is only laid out in broad strokes, with even the important detail of just what exactly they’re going to do with their prisoners still up for debate. These kids are walking a morally ambiguous line here, and without a clear mission statement, they could easily make a fatal misstep.
Then there’s the issue of the Council’s line-up. Katharsis is the obvious problem; her stubbornness and proclivity for violence leaves her a potential liability for the whole team. That said, the presence of Mouse and Burden is just as troubling. Mouse appears to have a very childlike mentality and demeanor, leaving me wondering if he truly understands what he’s involved in. Burden is never even given a choice to be a part of the Council, and with his own deep-seated guilt and repression, I also worry about what being a party to all this violence might to do him. Mouse and Burden especially belong in therapy, but Virtue flat-out states that she needs their muscle too much; hopefully this decision doesn’t come back to bite her in the butt.
Virtue and Tremor are much more level-headed, but still, I’m assuming they’re teenagers, and I can’t imagine making the kind of decisions they’re making as a teenager. I mean, I’m 26 and I can’t even imagine having to make these kind of decisions at my age, nonetheless as a moody, prone to see the world in black and white teenager.
Despite all these issues, though, these characters are still the heroes of the book, and while writer Gail Simone allows us to explore their flaws, she still manages to give us protagonists we can root for.
Allowing us to see that the Movement also doubles as a rescue mission gives them a lot of leeway. They’re not only taking in homeless teens, but they’re teaching them, trying to give them a chance to succeed in the future; it’s pretty impressive stuff. These kids’ hearts are in the right place; Virtue is obviously a noble soul, but even Katharsis does what she does—no matter how violent—to help protect the innocent and stop people who abuse their power to hurt others. There’s something inspiring about these characters taking such a strong stand for what they believe in.
So Shelby, how do you think the team (and this book) is coming along? Any ideas how the Cornea Killer is involved in all of this? And how about that art? I love what Freddie Williams II is doing with his inks!
Shelby: Oh, I think this book is coming along just swell. Simone is making some very smart choices with these character, the smartest being the moral ambiguity we see on both sides of the story. There’s no doubt the members of The Movement are the good guys of the story, but they aren’t messing around, either. “Try not to kill anyone, but don’t let anyone give you any crap, either,” is the advice Virtue gives her team as they confront Rainmaker’s crew; these guys will be brutal if they have to be. It’s pretty obvious as well that Whitt is your stereotypical bad cop, and that all the cops aren’t great. They’ve failed the people, but they’re not all bad. The Chief wants to help people, he wants to find the Cornea Killer and he wants to keep his citizens safe. At the same time, two of his men (dickbags though they might be) have been taken by dangerous vigilantes; what else can he do but go back for more firepower?
It’s that ambiguity that makes this story so compelling. Once again, Simone is showing off how great she is at writing believable characters. Virtue and her team are superheroes, but they’re also just people; they’re charming and flawed just the same as we are. Williams’ pencils are the perfect foil to Simone’s grounded characters. He can do so much with such simple facial expressions.
I love that sad consideration on Mouse’s face. Spencer, you mentioned that Mouse and Burden are not wholly in charge of their facilities, and it’s maybe inappropriate for them to be on Virtue’s team. In Mouse’s case, I think it’s just a matter of him actually being part rat. Like his brain has been partially rewired: only someone who is a little bit person and little bit animal would be sad to lose a friend while fighting the desire to eat them. And while he may be a huge boon for the team, it’s probably just better for him to be under the watchful eyes of Vengeance Moth and Virtue than on his own. That goes doubly true for Burden; at least Virtue is aware that he has a mental illness. But even still, she’s not above using him because she knows it will further their cause.
Even though we are only two issues in, this title already presents some pretty complex characters and situations. Simone is taking a very real-world look at what could drive people to vigilantism. The situation is topical and belivable, and doesn’t lose any of it’s relevancy when you add some crazy superpowers. Williams manages to give us art that is both cartoonishly innocent and alarmingly gritty: a perfect representation of Virtue’s under-aged team. Simone has drawn her blurry line in the sand between the good guys and bad, and I imagine it’s going to be a while before that line solidifies into a clearer distiction. Personally, I would be satisfied if it never did.
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?