As War Wages in Invincible, the question of what's happening on Earth is being answered in a manner that only Skybound Comics could do.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Writers: Robert Kirkman and Benito Cereno
Pencils: Ransom Getty
Inks: Russell Jackson
Colors: Thomas Mason
Guarding the Globe #4
When does a standard comic mean more than it is supposed to? When it sends a positive message about something that needs addressing.
I wanted to start this review by stating my pessimism about the whole medium at large, but realized that it would be too much of a blanket statement. However, there are parts of the Industry that I'm not too high on as we speak, with most of my down attitude being aimed on the Issues I have with the Publishing Arms of Marvel and DC, namely with how things are run on the Business and Creative Ends of the spectrum. On the business side of things, there are plenty of other written pieces that can give the full situation much more justice than this review can, so I'll leave it up to those hard working individuals. As for the creative side of things, since this review will also be doubling as an opinion piece on those issues, we will be discussing those issues in length, especially the one of the most controversial ones.
When I got back into Comics for real in 2008 (I came back for Civil War, but didn't stay), there were things I began to notice that didn't sit well with me, and if it had to be put into one statement, that statement would be "the overall creative timidness of the Big 2 at large." And by timidness, I mean the fact that it generally seems that the publishing arms of Marvel and DC are far too afraid to piss off the customers they still have, and as such a holding pattern exists where lasting impacts to the Status Quo are never truly implemented, and if they are, things will inevitably revert to the "Iconic Version" of the various franchises. Such a creative philosophy does create certain conditions that not only hinder the stories in question, but the relevance they may have as well. Nowhere else is this more evident than in probably the ultimate hot button creative issue that most comics are facing today in Diversity.
Now as far as Diversity goes, I'm not limiting this discussion to Racial Diversity (which is usually what this debate devolves into, whether the debaters mean to, or not), as that's the not the only diversity that matters. Cultural, Gender, Story and even Character Diversity (i.e. making sure every character doesn't fall into some type of identifiable archetype) are also vital in making sure that this medium does not fall into the traps of Creative Redundancy and Social Irrelevancy, something that the Big 2 has sadly not taken the bull by the horns. In the past several years, there have been a number of instances where Marvel and DC have taken steps back in Character (DC's and Marvel both getting rid of YEARS of Character Development since 2004, in particular), and Story Diversity (Due to many Factors, Marvel and DC have gone on to pigeonhole a vast majority of their titles into franchise, most notably). The analysis looks even grimmer when you take into account the Issues these companies have in terms of Cultural, Gender and Racial Diversity (which a common trait they share with their sister Entertainment Mediums).
When one takes into account that we're in the 11th Year of the 21 Century, the fact that there is still a struggle to properly represent different Races and Cultures is annoying at best, and terrifyingly soul crushing at worst. Even with all of the strides made in these regards, there still exists an environment where cultural insensitivity (Mother of Champions, whose implications could be the subject of another written piece) and stereotype mongering (Ice's new Origin as revealed in Justice League: Generation Lost) still run rampant to this day. It is also the combination of those two aspects that leads to shoehorning Minority Characters of all types into typecasts that end up becoming a part of the lazy writing shorthand that seemingly exists in the medium. From Powers (Black characters having Electral Powers of some sort, Asian Characters being Marital Arts Masters) to personalities (Black Characters being stoic, Gypisies being Liars of some sort), to simply having these characters exist beyond certain defined "comfortable" roles, there exists a glass celing that is hard for these characters to overcome. Even the late great Dwayne McDuffie has spoken on these issues (and others connected to them) a number of times, and has connected many of them to the fact that Marvel and DC more or less exist to cater to the sensitivities of a readership that is very adverse to any change of the status quo they hold so dearly. It is these factors (and others), that the concept of a truly racially, culturally and internationally diverse team of Superheroes seems like an impossible dream. However, not everyone thinks so, and it is thanks to those people that we have taken a step in the right direction with Guarding the Globe. How does the fourth chapter stand up as an actual comic? Lets find out, shall we?
For those who may have not been following, "Guarding the Globe" takes place in Robert Kirkman's universe that has been established in the Invincible Book, with this book focusing on not just rebuilding the Global Guardians whose ranks were decimated in earlier stories, but on the many characters that have been created during Invincible entire run. Like Fables, the focus on these characters helps to enhance the richness of the story being told in these books, while creating a fully 3-Dimensional fictional Universe with stories just waiting to be told. As for the book itself, Guarding the Globe #4 is not a book that's going to set the world on fire with innovation in its plot, or overall storytelling, as the Guardians of the Globe (being this world's Justice League/Avengers) are pitted against Villains who have organized into a Counter-Entity known as The Order (a stand in for The Legion of Doom/Masters of Evil), which is a story that has played out numerous times all over comics. "Guarding the Globe" scores most of its points in how it handles this conventional story.
From the first page, you're going to notice something very important (and something else that'll also be noted), and that's the makeup of the team, which not only represents 5 of the 6 habitable continents (South America is represented on the Villains side), but from a variety of cultures and ethnicities, making it one of the most ambitious efforts on a superficial level at having a truly diverse roster. On a deeper level, Robert Kirkman and Benito Cereno take plenty of care to avoid any of the stereotypical and character typecasting that this was touched upon earlier in this review. Gone are the Asian Martial Artists and Stoic Black Men, that are replaced with well intentioned, dynamic characters with interesting traits (It should also be noted that this comic shows us that we can have 2 Black males with distinctive personalities (not to mention having one being the Spokesperson of the Team, mind you), that don't have Electrical or Welfare Powers of some sort) just waiting to be touched upon. Another thing that should be taken into account is the fact that no one character sounds (or acts) like the other, which is just one of the pitfalls that happen with juggling so many voices on occasion. Despite a couple of things that could be seen as missteps (Such as almost every white person being blonde and blue-eyed), there are far too many positives that simply cannot be ignored.
When one reads a lot of current comic books, one of the techniques that have become one of the most common ones for better or for worse, is the abundance of splash pages. Loved by some for the jaw dropping visuals they produce, and hated by others because of the story space they usually take up, their advent has lead people to underestimate the importance of panel use to the overall art package, but thanks to Ransom Getty and Russell Jackson they provide a nice reminder to such a fact. This is especially the case when Best Tiger uses 1 bullet and some exceptional Knife Play to take down a whole Triad Platoon, in a sequence that is a joy to watch unfold. It is also thanks to the panel work that we get a sense of the gravity of what's happening when The Order launches their original attack. It is thanks to this, and the very well-drawn characters, backgrounds and great use of colors that this book is great to look at.
When all is said and done, one of the things that hold this book back from being truly great is the fact that a storyline of this scope has to fit into 6 22-Page Single Issues. It is those constraints that do not allow all of the readers to get as good of a pulse on these characters that they and the readers deserve, as some characters come out of nowhere for the new reader, (and even for some of the established) which impedes on the fans making that connection that's so critical with literary pieces. Despite that Issue though, Guarding the Globe is still quite a good book that embraces that takes a HUGE step in the right direction in terms of Diversity, giving this reviewer hope that this will eventually be par for the course. To anyone who thinks this issue is important, then I urge you to hunt down the first Three Issues, or to get the Trade as soon as it becomes available.
Story ***: A standard, paint by the numbers Superhero Story is propped by the dynamics behind said story.
Art ****1/4: The Art teams needs to be commended for not only their drawings, but their challenging, refreshing use of panels.
Accessibilty **3/4: For as much as this issue does for Diversity, for one to truly understand the story they need to have read the first 3 Issues.
Final Judgement (A Combination of all 3 sub-scores plus Intangibles): ***1/4 (Very Good)
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight