Rated | Alphabetical
Earth To Earth
Rick Veitch, John Totleben,
Top 10: Collected Edition: Book 2
Alan Moore, Gene Ha,
America's Best Comics, 2002
May 14, 2002
Kevin Forest Moreau
Alan Moore is comics' perfect superstar. As inventive as Orson Welles
circa Citizen Kane (or Brian Wilson circa Pet Sounds), as reclusive
as Howard Hughes, as contradictory and contrary a figure as ...well, name
your favorite contradictory and contrary figure. Moore meticulously built
his reputation within the confines of DC Comics' superhero universe, only
to shun those environs for the more intellectually verdant pastures of
From Hell, Big Numbers and other endeavors. Only to return to
the job of crafting self-aware superhero commentaries, first for Image and
then, ultimately, again for DC (under the aegis of his own America's
Best Comics and Jim Lee's Wildstorm imprint).
The obvious course, even for fans of his metaphysical, metafictional
capes-and-tights capers, is to harbor suspicions of "selling out." But
such name-calling, accurate or not, is irrelevant: For whether he's taking
the money and running or devoting himself body and soul to the
America's Best Comics titles, it's clear that Moore's outsized
intellect, his fiendish imagination, has rarely been as fully engaged. And
while all of the ABC titles display this wicked wit, none do so on
as admirable or hilarious a scale as Top 10.
As conceived by Moore and painstakingly rendered in a mix of the
fantastic and the photo-real by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, the world of
Top 10 is one in which the ever-multiplying ranks of super-beings
necessitate the building of a city big enough to contain them all.
Consequently, every being in Neopolis, from the prostitute on the corner
to the members of the latest boy-band, has a super-power, and a code-name
to match. Top 10 concerns itself with the detectives and officers
of the 10th Precinct, part of a police network covering many alternate
Earths, as they track down leads, Law and Order-style, in a string
of serial murders and the eventual uncovering of a kiddie-porn ring
disguised as a superhero group whose exploits no one can actually verify.
Like its predecessor, this second volume (collecting issues 8-12 of the
series) is packed to bursting with flashes of Moore's hyper-cleverness: A
teleportation collision snarls traffic, two human victims dead or dying
due to being fused with the larger body of a giant talking game-piece in a
cosmic chess match; an apartment is victimized by warring super-powered
cats and mice involved in a Crisis-sized conflagration, and an
exterminator hired to flush them out is forgotten when time is altered and
the entire conflict is erased from memory. A seedy red-light district
boasts marquees like "Tools of Suspense," "Journey into Mammary" and
"Strange Tails." Familiar characters from comics and television appear as
background extras at an inter-dimensional travel depot.
Top 10 is arguably the best of Moore's ABC output, but
even at its manic, sensory-overload best, it's a conceit: never any more
or less than an amusing and interesting fusion of workable genre
conventions into a sturdily constructed plotline for a lysergic cop show.
And its humorous glimpse of a fantastically-garbed parallel world lacks
the visceral splash of cold water that Moore threw in the faces of
complacent comics readers with his groundbreaking 1980s work on
Swamp Thing: Earth To Earth, the fifth volume to collect Moore's run
on the title, pulses with a depth that the enjoyable but ultimately light
Top 10 never even approaches.
The action in
Earth To Earth centers mainly around the Swamp Thing's quest to free
his human lover, Abigail Cable, who's been arrested on a "crimes against
nature"-style charge for her relationship with the muck-encrusted Plant
Elemental. Cable, who's been photographed by a tabloid shutterbug while
cavorting with the Swamp Thing in the Louisiana swamps, is confronted by
police at the home for autistic children where she works. After her
employer bails her out and fires her in one fell swoop, Abby ill-advisedly
jumps her bail, hopping a bus for Gotham City. No sooner does she arrive,
however, then she's picked up by cops rounding up hookers in a Vice sweep.
The Swamp Thing, returning to the swamps after saving the world at the end
of the previous storyline, learns of his beloved's predicament and sets
forth to demand her release.
It's impressive to note in today's hyper-accelerated society that a
couple of years into his run on the book, Moore was still meticulously
charting S.T.'s newfound abilities as a Plant Elemental. While the
previous cataclysmic storyline showed him gaining confidence in his new
role, the Gotham storyline displays a Swamp Thing in full control, turning
the whole of ultra-urban Gotham into a verdant, over-run jungle, credibly
threatening to cripple the city unless Cable is freed. Of course, setting
the story in Gotham is little more than an excuse to have S.T. go up
against the Batman, but this confrontation pales in thrill value next to
such feats as S.T. warping the floorboards of a courtroom into a giant
wooden face of fury through which he issues his ultimatum to the city.
As he does throughout his run, Moore makes the best use possible out of
the fact that the Swamp Thing inhabits the same DC universe as such iconic
characters as Batman and Superman. Shadowy government types consult with
Supes' foe Lex Luthor, who on the spot scribbles a plan capable of
defeating S.T., cutting off his vibrational escape route into "the Green,"
the lattice of floral energy and essence from which he draws his powers.
Thus, S.T.'s triumphant reunion with Cable is cut drastically short, as an
ambush results in his body being destroyed and his spirit being rendered
incapable of bolting to create a new form. Thus Moore sets up his
following storyline, which catapults S.T.'s essence into outer space for a
series of sci-fi-tinged adventures, the first of which, "My Blue Heaven,"
closes this volume.
Much of Moore's success on
Swamp Thing can be directly attributed to the lush artwork of such
talents as Steven Bissette (not seen here), John Totleben and Rick Veitch,
Earth To Earth is no exception. Special mention must also go to
colorist Tatjana Wood, whose simultaneously murky and vibrant palette
lends consistency to the various artists' sketchy styles.
Top 10 shows that some two decades into his mainstream comics
career, Alan Moore is still capable of crafting "gotcha" concepts and
creating worlds overflowing with ingenious detail. But
Earth To Earth displays a quicksilver talent able to mine the deep
soil of horror, fantasy and superheroics for something infinitely more
substantial and rewarding.
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