Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
My first thought when learning that there was going to be a revival of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Comics line at Image was that I was an old, old man. We’d already reached the point where something so recent was old enough to have a nostalgia hook? And then I realized that we’re more than a decade since the last revamp of Prophet and almost as long since the last attempt at a Glory series.
Nonetheless, there’s something about the idea that feels… unexpected, at least. After all, the Extreme line hasn’t really been something that I’ve seen a lot of people crying out for a revival of, or even having particularly fond memories of. For my own part, for some reason, I always end up putting it alongside Jim Lee’s whole Wildstorm universe – which has suffered various fortunes in the last twenty or so years since its creation, almost all of which were in a downward direction – but without the highpoint of the turn of the century Warren Ellis/John Cassaday/Bryan Hitch/Mark Millar/Frank Quitely era. Instead, there was Alan Moore’s Supreme and Judgment Day, and then a couple of stillborn attempts to have Moore revamp the entire universe, both of which have been quickly pushed into relative obscurity (But, somehow, Moore’s efforts feel lesser than what Ellis and Millar et al did with the Wildstorm universe; perhaps because they didn’t impact the larger superhero publishers in the same way? Perhaps because they were so retrospective that they were almost parody?). There’s something about the Extreme characters that feel very much of their time, and of that time to be the past. They don’t seem contemporary, or forward thinking, and that’s what makes their revival so fascinating.
That… how to describe it? A lack of urgency? A lack of necessity? That feeling that the Extreme characters are relics without the kind of emotional connection or cultural impact that make them permanent, solidified ideas, is what makes the revival so appealing, as well; the idea of Brandon Graham writing a science fiction series influenced by Metabarons and European SF comics is incredibly exciting, just as I can look at the Glory preview images and, divorced from any idea of what Glory is supposed to be, think “Muscular woman punching tank. That’s kind of a cool image” without having any preconceptions about what I’m seeing. It’s telling that the one title I’m most hesitant to pick up is Youngblood, the one title I’ve read the most often; I’ve read enough takes on that idea to feel jaded about it coming back (Plus, I’m still harboring a grudge over the way that Rob Liefeld took over the book from Joe Casey a few years back and instantly vanished it, whether by accident or design).
It’s weird; I wanted to be snarky and mean about the revival. “Who wants to read about the Extreme characters?” and all that. But it’s that very thing, the fact that there’s not a ready-made audience out there, that ultimately wins me over. Add to that the fact that the revivals don’t seem to be slavish attempts to ape Liefeld or Extreme in their prime, and there’s a sense that, just maybe, this revival is as much based on love of the characters and a desire to push them somewhere else, and that’s… kind of great, really. I have no idea whether the actual comics will live up to my surprise enthusiasm and interest, but if nothing else, I’ll be picking up the first issues and hoping for the best.