Elementals #15 – Reviews Of Old Comics
As I write this, it’s a slow news day. I’m already a week ahead on these columns, so it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to put in yet another one. It seems like forever since I did one of these for an independent comic. Of course, in my mind, Phantom Lady doesn’t count.
The first thing that came to mind was one of my favorite independent series, Elementals by Bill Willingham, better known for Fables. A lot of what other writers did in the later 1990s and 2000s was done before by Bill Willingham. Do you want a sinister government agency interacting with super-heroes? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want super-heroes cursing? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want graphic violence in your super-hero comics? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want your super-heroes deciding not to act like they’re in a comic book? Well, I’ve got an issue for you.
Writer / Cover Artist: Bill Willingham
Penciller: Mike Leeke
Inker: Mike Chen
Colorist: Marcus David
Letterer: Kurt Hathaway
The Elementals are starting their weekly business meeting. Their lawyer, Fathom’s father Michael Golden breaks down that the business end of their super-team is doing very well. Problems include disputes with the producers of an Elementals movie, and a legal dispute between chain restaurants owned by Monolith and Fathom.
Their aide Lawrence expresses a need for more security and a receptionist. Vortex and Monolith make a crass joke about their desire for the receptionist to be a “babe.” Mary Lo, their government liaison, briefs them on the aftermath of Philadelphia’s vampire problem, the alien carrier capsules and their request for the government to drop charges against Ratman. Ratman will instead be working as an advisor on Nacht Island. Before adjourning, Monolith has business he wants to bring up, but he kicks out Mr. Golden, Lawrence and Mary Lo.
Monolith hands out some comic books. He expresses the observation that the Elementals are becoming just like the characters in ridiculous comic books. The super-criminals they put in prison break out and then the Elementals put them back. He suggests that instead of putting them in prison, they kill them. This alarms Mary Lo, who is eavesdropping on them with electronic bugs.
The Elementals further discuss their situation. Monolith suggests that their powers make them a nation apart from humanity. He also suggests that there are probably many more than they have encountered, primarily ones that have attacked them. Vortex then brings up that their friend Ratman would have been dead if the Elementals had killed him as Monolith suggests. This causes an intense argument between Vortex and Monolith. Morningstar breaks it up and suggests a break.
Monolith checks with Lawrence who is eavesdropping on Mary Lo. They know that the government has bugged their headquarters. Monolith says the government can listen as long as they can’t participate. When the meeting resumes, the Elementals talk briefly about offers Mr. Golden doesn’t bring to their attention, like an offer for a Hustler pictorial. They then discuss Monolith’s death penalty for super-villains that are too dangerous to their community. Fathom likens it to what they did with the vampires in Philadelphia.
Fathom points out that they died and came back with powers. She personally killed a lot of them to protect people, just as Monolith suggested. This gets the others attention and they’re on board for Monolith’s proposal. This sends Mary Lo to call her supervisor in Washington in a panic.
On the moon, Thor is giving his government liaison a tour of his home. The agent points out that Thor seems like a broken man since returning from Tibet. Thor remembers that he has beaten by Saker in Tibet and sent him off with a warning not to return. Thor refuses to share this with his guest, though.
The Elementals continue their meeting. Monolith has suggested this new nation of the supernature because the mystery planet has attacked them all. Monolith suggests ways to discover other superhumans. Merlin’s realm of Avalon will be used as an evacuation base for any wounded as they confront the mystery planet. Monolith will get Thor to take him to Asgard. Hopefully there is something there to help them fins more superhumans. As they adjourn, everyone wonders what they’ll tell F.I.S.H., the government agency watching over superhuman activity. Monolith slyly assures them that F.I.S.H. will find out soon enough.
The story primarily addresses a shift in the direction of the comic. The introduction to Monolith’s argument is a clever meta way to address the reason for the change. As I mentioned in the introduction, Elementals did a lot of this stuff before it became fashionable to do so. The discussion to form their own nation bears a lot of similarity to Jonathan Hickman’s new direction for the X-Men. The discussion about killing those that are a danger to the community begins to get very serious. The transition to all of the Elementals agreeing seemed a little abrupt to me at the time. However, Fathom explaining her reasoning works for me now, and that leaves just two to convince, and that isn’t that large of a leap.
A lot of this is also helped by the fact that despite all appearances, Monolith is not an adolescent, his mind, already very advanced in intelligence, is in its twenties. This isn’t even addressed in the story, but with the Elementals it’s a part of their back story, explained many times, most recently when they were first attacked by the mystery planet. The tone is very mature, and that is in a way that doesn’t include graphic violence or sexuality. I really appreciate reading a comic that is treating me like a grown-up with a thinking mind.
Mike Leeke delivers technically fine art. Sometimes the backgrounds and scenery is too sparse for my tastes. The only real problem that I have is the use of arrows in the panel layouts. If you have to tell the reader the direction to go, you’ve failed in designing the page. However, there are moments where the layout works very well. He does handle the problem of making an issue interesting when it is essentially a lot of people talking for the entire issue. For me, that forgives the sparseness, and allows for some leeway with the arrows.
This story hasn’t been collected. Like most Elementals issues, the chances are very slim.due to the dispute in ownership of the property. This also means that the issues most likely won’t ever be available digitally. Fortunately, finding it as a back issue won’t cost you too much. It might even be available in bargain bins.
Final Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)