"Well, if I'm honest, it was mostly the damsels" - Jeff
Last year I covered the two collected volumes of Alan Moore's less well known work from his America's Best Comics years, Top Ten. It was set in a city where everyone has superpowers and followed the work of the Top Ten precinct whose also superpowered cops kept the peace. It was very much influenced by shows like Homicide: Life On The Street and Hill Street Blues and managed to convey a gritty down-to-earth sensibility despite all the colourful characters in it thanks to the layouts of Zander Cannon and the finishes of Gene Ha. While the first "season" wrapped up neatly, in the final panel there was the promise of a second season that never came. Moore wasn't done with Top Ten though. Several years later he worked on a prequel graphic novel with Gene Ha called The Fourty-Niners, and this five issue miniseries with Zander Cannon which starts not long after the events that concluded Top Ten season one. It spotlights Jeff Smax, a tall and powerful blue ogre whose superpower is being able to project a powerful energy beam and his human partner Robyn who doesn't have an intrinsic power but has a gang of intelligent toys that help her out, as they travel to one of the more farflung alternate earths to help clear up some loose threads in his past.
First thing that's noticable is how different the art is from Top Ten. Zander Cannon did the layouts for that comic and Gene Ha the detailing so overall Top Ten looks more like Gene Ha's work than Zander's. However this is a merry tale of fantasy cliches with dwarves, elves, dragons and quests, so this art style is actually very suitable and I assume Zander Cannon tailored his art appropriately. It's bright and cheerful and generally more suitable to the lighter mood this adventure has than the Top Ten art style would have been, in the same way Gene Ha's uber detailed, painted work is suitable for his turn with the heavily sci-fi Top Ten in The 49'ers.
|Jeff Smax and Robyn.|
Jeff's world, Earth 137, is a "backworld". Instead of the sci-fi means of travel to the main words, they have to travel via magic spell to 137. They stand in the summoning circle and the wizard begins the spell, Jeff tells Robyn to close her eyes, but too late. She vomit's copiously as they travel. On the otherside, one of the witches offers to clean her jacket and while she does so, Robyn and Jeff step outside to a fairy tale landscape.
Jeff: "Don't look at me. I said it was a dump."
Robyn: "Jeff, it's beautiful."
Jeff: "Huh, yeah, well. You wait until you used the toilets here. Then we'll see."
The innkeeper shows them to his five star buffet which includes unicorn and stuffed cherubs. This induces more vomiting from Robyn, who had eaten some unknowingly. They travel to his aunt and Jeff tells her how she and his deceased uncle took him and his twin sister in when they were young.
Robyn: "Jeez. That must have been tough. Your parents dying?"
Jeff: "Yeah it was. Thinking about it, I probably shouldn't have killed them."
At his adoptive aunts home, she is a dwarf by the way, he is greeted warmly. One of the dwarfs present calls him "dragonslayer". His equally blue and large twin sister Rexa is also there. Jeff introduces Robyn as his wife much to her annoyance. After and awkward dinner Jeff tries to talk to her about it on the way back to the inn, but she freezes him out and goes off to bed.
Jeff: "He ate Firefleet her horse. Snapped Elfang her enchanted sword. Raped her."
Oh Alan! Anyway he took her home and kept her prisoner. She survived the pregnancy but not giving birth to twins. He kept the kids although they had to fend for themselves and he beat them every night. When Rexa became thirteen he started messing with her. So one day, Jeff and Rexa got a tree trunk, sharpened it, and staked their father to the ground then set him on fire. Once he was finally dead they wandered until Mack and Minka took them in. He also admits about him and his sister:
Jeff: "We've been intimate. Since we were kids. That's like normal here. You see why I'm embarrassed about this place."
|Jeff and Rexa's father.|
After some prodding from Robyn, Jeff tells her more of his story. To help support his adoptive aunt and uncle he got a job as a dragonslayer. It paid well, including thirty per cent of the creatures hoard. He was successful at it and one day was hired to kill a beast called Morningbright and rescue the princess it had captured called Naruli.
He found Naruli in Morningbright's cave system, but before he could get her to safety Morningbright appeared and gave him the following message:
Morningbright: "Heed Earthly Lass. Lest Our Rustic Orb Becomes Your Nemesis."
Then Morningbright blasted him and Naruli with fire and Naruli palm print was burned into Jeff's skin as she was consumed by the blaze. Sadly Jeff packed up, and left for the alternate Top Ten earth and that's him up to date. Robyn is curious about the message Morningbright gave him and suddenly realises it's an acrostic that reads "Hello Robyn".
Jeff says it's just atmospheric pressure. Then it rains frogs. Minka his adoptive aunt tells him of several more omens that have happened. Jeff says he must get his wife home, but Minka says everyone knows she not his wife. After going for a sulk, Jeff gives in and he and Robyn travel to the city to register the quest.
They reach the department of quests which has a long que. Finally they get to see someone who turns out to be Death.
Lionel Death: "Well I'm only A Death, obviously. But I'm the one who handles chess games against wily peasants. My name is Lionel, nice to meet you."
He admits to being very bad at chess, which is why he's doing office work right now. The "real, awesome Death" is called Dennis. Anyway he needs proof of Morningbright's wickedness, so Jeff shows him the handprint burned onto his chest.
Jeff: "Just give me all the protocols and quotas you're going to hit me with."
|The Maiden's Mark.|
Later, Robyn and Aldric are sat round the campfire. He starts sweet talking her and they end up kissing and spending the night together. Left alone outside, a very sexually frustated Jeff says "aah balls." The next day Robyn is collecting firewood and Jeff says his razor shapr insticts should lead them to Morningbright soon. The final page of the chapter however shows they have been camping in a giant footprint.
|Evidence of Morningbright is everywhere.|
Wizard: "Admittedly that theory was that dragons are nice and talk in a warm, Scottish brogue."
The wizard then departs sying he has performance targets to meet. The gang then ride for hours looking for the cave system Morningbright lives in. Finally they find some caves with a huge carpet of child skulls leading into it.
Jeff says he must go in alone, but Robyn, Rexa and Aldric insist on going with him. Inside Rexa and Robyn discuss Jeff's feelings for Rexa, while Jeff tells Aldric if he hurts Robyn he'll eat his head. Their lamp goes out, and when they light another one, they realise the cave is carpeted with a pattern of Morningbrights which become 3D and start swarming them.
|Many mini Morningbrights.|
Morningbright: "Death is close now. That final darkness just a few paces into the future. Farewell for now little ones. No matter how far you run, you'll be back and I'll be waiting."
The Morningbrights then fly back into the caves. Jeff says he is going back alone this time. And walks off into the caves. Robyn starts thinking of her own plan to kill Morningbright, "we're going to need wood and metal". Jeff enters the cave with just his talking sword, which sings "Dancing Queen" to him to give him succour.
Outside Rexa gathers wood and blasts a hole in the ground so the dwarves can get the iron. Robyn tells them to build "a sort of raft with wheels". Then goes to recover from getting caught in the blast shockwave. She hears Death come up behind her saying he is a "great and terrible Death". But Robyn turns and says "are you Dennis?" to him.
Inside the dragons caves Jeff chances upon a floating, glowing sphere made up of the souls of all the children Morningbright had killed. Naruli is one of them, who tells Jeff he must kill Morningbright. "I.. I don't know if I can" says Jeff. Morningbright then appears and buries Jeff alive.
Outside Robyn has (somehow) come to the conclusion that Morningbright is powered by nuclear fusion. She then etlls the dwarves to turn the iron into one big nail. Back underground Jeff reappears and atacks Morningbright, who then angrily chases Jeff outside. There Robyn and the others have mounted the nail upon the wheeled platform. Then Jeff comes running out chased by Morningbright.
The gang then return to Jeff's aunt, who he surprises in the middle of some BDSM. Aldric asks Robyn to marry him, oh and he'll need papers to come to her world. Robyn frowns and realises she's been used and kicks him in the groin. Jeff and Rexa are sad they have to leave each other. Robyn says why doesn't Rexa come with them, no one back in Top Ten will know they are related.
So Rexa comes to their world and will move in with Jeff, who is incredibly happy by this turn of events. Robyn hands him a gift then leaves them to settle in. It's a set of His N'Hers bath towels. And so this miniseries ends with Jeff and Rexa happy together in their incestous relationship. Well at... at least it's not rape.
|Happily Ever After...?|