Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe 1, originally released November 6th, 2013.
Patrick: This summer at E3, two of the biggest brands in video gaming had to pitch their new systems at an audience that hadn’t had to think about new consoles in years. It’s an absurd proposition when you think about it: spend $400 dollars on one of these boxes so you can play games (oh by the way, you can keep playing games on the boxes you already own). Technologically, the boxes are nearly identical, but something has to separate Sony from Microsoft, so the small differences suddenly became the biggest. In one of the biggest dick-moves I’ve ever seen come out of the conference, Sony specifically pointed to all of those tiny flaws in Microsoft’s XBox One, and said “yeah, we’re not making those mistakes.” There’s something refreshingly honest about Sony embracing the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that the fans have been espousing forever. Especially in light of DC’s reboot and their current editorial woes, Marvel is well-poised to make few quiet assertions about what they’re proud to be… and a few things they’re proud not to be.
Longshot’s a lucky guy – that’s his superpower. Whenever he pursues a goal with noble intention, everything works out well for him. But if there’s any kind of shittiness to his goals, well, he still usually gets his way but there are consequences. He’s basically a walking Twilight Zone episode. In the course of his daily New York nonsense, Longshot meets Dr. Chip, a scientist who has developed some Hank-Pym-level super-technology. Chip, and his beautiful daughter, had their safe broken into by a gang of shady cable guys. Strangely, the crooks were only interested in money – not the sci-fi tech that littered the place. No time to process that, a mysterious man that has been killing lucky people appears and attacks Longshot with… I wanna say: magic? By a coincidence that would only be at place in a book featuring luck-based heroes, Reed Richards and Tony Stark just so happen to be driving by with a Cosmic Cube in a briefcase. There’s an accident and Longshot winds up with the Cube and everything… changes. The story skips back a few beats and suddenly everything is different: the cable guys get called out as crooks before they are able to steal anything; Tony and Reed never set out with the Cube; and the Lucky Killer is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. now.
Okay, so: time travel, right? If Longshot is in the process of “saving” the Marvel Universe, he’s got to address the publisher’s voracious appetite for mucking with the space time continuum. It’s become something of a running joke in the X-Men books, or Indestructible Hulk or even Superior Spider-Man – there’s just too much time travel to keep anything straight. It stands to reason that Longshot’s just experienced a little bit of the effects of time travel, as his present is being altered by powers beyond his control. Which is all sorta interesting, and blah blah blah whatever. The part of this story that interests me the most is how confidently the series states its identity.
That identity is Marvel, and by extension, it is not DC. When I first heard of this series at NYCC last month, I thought the title was a cheesy little homage to the kinds of awkward mouthful-names these comics used to have. Let’s all remember that Spider-Man originally appeared in an issue of Amazing Fantasy. But after reading the issue, it’s clear to me that Marvel wanted to have title with their fucking name on it, much the same way that DC always as Detective Comics in print. Unlike DetCom, Longshot is light and humorous and values fun over any hard hitting thematic ideas. Longshot himself is a weird amalgamation of all the attractive qualities of the Marvel superheroes: he’s a New Yorker, he cracks jokes, he’s sort of an X-Man (but also sorta not). He’s Spider-Man and Deadpool and Wolverine all rolled into one!
On the subject of New Yorkiness: I don’t know that I’ve read a superhero comic with quite so many New York specifics in it. There’s the general stuff, like the food truck / food cart culture, but then there’s also the very specific stuff — like Tony and Reed plotting their course using the Statten Island Ferry and the BQE. Without New York, this wouldn’t be the same issue. Maybe it’s happenstance that DC just went public(er) about their plans to move out of New York City, but this serves as a well-timed declaration of pride in the city. Marvel is New York in a way DC never was and certainly never will be again.
Even down to the dumbest details, Marvel seems insistent on playing this character the way they play characters. That means that even when they redesign a hairstyle to make a character more modern, they don’t do it with a reboot. They explain — in universe and on the page — how, why, when and where Longshot got that mullet sheered off his head. They turn the hair cut into another fucking New York moment, for crying out loud! I don’t know if Humans of Interest is the name of a real barbershop, but it’s so well realized here, I totally believe it.
Writer Christopher Hastings is sure to namecheck Longshot’s creator, the notorious Ann Nocenti. Nocenti’s had a long career in comics, and while he have very little patience for her around these parts, she has written all of your favorite characters at both publishers. Curiously, she’s only writing for DC at the moment, leading up the abysmal Catwoman and Katana series. I don’t really know what to do with the reference, other than to point out that it’s there and that it’s hard to think of Nocenti and not think DC. Make of that what you will.
Finally, Marvel’s able to assert that they might just be hipper than their competition. While Reed and Tony are off delivering the Cosmic Cube to god-knows-where, they end up listening to Get Lucky” on the radio. Can you imagine Superman turning on the radio and rocking out to Daft Punk? No, you can’t.
What do you think, Ethan? I’m I looking too hard for the references or do you see them too? Also, got any idea who that Lucky-People Killer is?
Ethan: Pigeonholed into Marvel as I am, I had to go back and re-read the issue after digesting your post to catch the DC references, but I believe they’re there. Whether they were A) all explicit digs or B) the tit-for-tat aspect is just popping out of the subconscious minds of the creatives – who I’m sure are very aware of their competition – I couldn’t say. Partly because I should read more DC and partly because, honestly, there are a few too many ideas and styles flying around in this issue to take in without a few double-takes. You know those “inventory issues” we’ve seen popping up in Deadpool? I am still not entirely convinced that Longshot isn’t just as much of a joke, or maybe it’s just that this title is setting itself up to have a bit of the same irreverence that serves as the foundation for Deadpool.
Patrick, I’m glad you mentioned the writer’s compulsion to work the change in hairstyle into the narrative (twice). I just finished re-reading Uncanny X-Factor, and the haircut thing makes me think of the issue in which Age-of-Apocalypse Nightcrawler starts complaining about how drab the X-Factor uniforms are, and Wade Wilson (Wade of all people!) starts justifying the colors by talking about how they represent the way X-Factor is taking sins upon their own heads so others don’t have to, yadda yadda yadda. Really, I was ok with the explanation of “Since these characters all usually wear different colors, the artists are putting ‘em in the new threads to visually reinforce the unity of the new team” or “X-Factor’s a scary hit-squad, ergo they wear scary clothes.” But apparently that just does not cut it – much better to show Kurt and Wade having a slap-fight at the bar over it.
Speaking of putting a fine point on things, Longshot is quite a goofy mixture of powers and origins. I’m glad that he gave us a succinct, tongue-in-cheek summary of himself, because I was ready to say pretty much the exact same thing:
So, let’s flesh out that list a little. He’s got luck powers (cf. Domino, Scarlet Witch); he was genetically engineered (bit of Weapon-X flavor), and grew up in another dimension (cf. Magick); he has a glowing eye (cf. Cable) and hollow bones (cf. Angel); he has psychometry (cf. the entire Grey-Summers Family). Oh, and I think he stole Gambit’s gloves. Like you said, Patrick, he’s a little bit of everything, like the creators tacked up a list of all of the different characters and played a long game of Pin the Superpowers on the Donkey. I guess if you’re going to try to save the Marvel Universe, it helps to have the skills of half of it.
On the other hand, how will Longshot save the universe if he’s screwing around with Cosmic Cubes and leaving it even more screwed up than he found it? S.H.I.E.L.D. is carrying out summary executions now, and he seems to have erased his luck powers – not a good start. Granted, he was fighting for his life against the Luck-Killer (who seems to be cosplaying a combo of Two-Face and Harlequin, no?). It’s not clear why Longshot’s finding himself at the wrong-end of a manhunt other than this brief exchange:
Neither do we know who the Luck-Killer really is, nor where he’s from. He seems to be invisible to everyone except Longshot (and people wearing cosmic vibration-detecting contacts!), and Longshot’s new scientist friend calls the Luck-Killer a god, warning him to “go back to whatever unimaginable maddening space plane you came from!” Interesting then that in Longshot’s Cosmic Cube-created alternate timeline the Luck-Killer is thrust into the rather more mundane role of S.H.I.E.L.D. officer, a sort of Parking Enforcement Officer with a gun.
I’m curious to see how much this title has in common with Deadpool in the long-run. It looks like it’s equally prone to oscillating between jokes and plots. Most importantly, the artists aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun with the biggest names in Marvel, which is why I can leave you with my hands-down favorite panel of the whole issue. Remember, kids, Cosmic Cubes aren’t toys – just like Tony Stark and Reed Richards always say:
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?