Monday, August 4, 2008

My love for Cary Bates knows no bounds...

When I read in Previews several months ago that Cary Bates was returning to comics with a miniseries from Marvel called True Believers, I was filled with a strong sense of nervous anticipation. I've expressed my love for Cary Bates's 1970s DC work several times in this blog, notably his Superman and Lois Lane stories. And I haven't even begun to cover his Justice League of America and Flash stories (which includes one of my personal favorites, Flash vs. Future Abe Lincoln).

But I hadn't read a new Cary Bates comic story in at least 20 years, the last one probably being an early issue of the Captain Atom revival he wrote for DC in the late 80s.

I needn't have worried, however. After reading just a few panels, my expectations were far, far exceeded.

On the opening page, a prostitute appears who had been recently thrown out of a john's car because she wouldn't perform a particular sex act:

Despite the prostitute's denial a few pages later, there is, indeed, such a thing as a "crusty bunker." And this reference made me laugh out loud.

Then, as if the "crusty bunker" weren't enough, we get this bit of snappy narration:

The prostitute in these opening pages turns out to be "Payback," an undercover member of the "True Believers," which is a group of superpowered hackers and underground journalists who expose the seedier side of the Marvel universe through their popular news blog. Payback breaks up the "Bikini Fight Club" that has been kidnapping prostitutes, drugging them with mutant growth hormone and LSD, and then forcing them to fight in a Roman-style arena. The news coverage this story receives catches the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we then get more information about the public face of this secret group.

The premise is catchy, and the art, by 70s veteran Paul Gulacy, is his best work in years. And while both creators certainly have long careers, this book feels fresh. Marvel is not promoting this series very much, so it may fall under the radar of some fans, especially since it's very clear that the series is not tied into current Secret Invasion continuity (at least one character who died in Secret Invasion appears in the first issue). But I was genuinely surprise how purely entertaining True Believers is, and it's well worth seeking out.