Monday, 16 May 2016

The Movement Book 1: Class Warfare (#1-6)

"Your whole world is over" - Virtue

Superhero comics need more diversity and I think the lack of it is slowly killing the genre as older more set in their ways readers are not being replaced fast enough by newer, younger fans.  There I said it.  It's ridiculous still that in 2016 we still have so many pale, male and stale heroes running about the DCU and Marvelverse.  Strides have been taken towards getting more black and female heroes out there, but it isn't enough. And you can count the number of homo/bisexual heroes allowed to headline a book on the fingers of one hand that is missing nearly all its fingers (where are you now, Batwoman? you will be missed Midnighter. Stay swinging both ways John).  Fortunately there are creators like Gail Simone out there who have made exceptional amounts of effort to include minority characters in her stories.  The Movement was a New 52 series that sadly only ran for twelve issues before cancellation (Deeee Ceeee!! *shakes fist*), but which gave us a team of that included not only gay and lesbian members but also a disabled one and even the return of a Bengali female hero she created for Secret Six who is officially asexual, a sexual preference that is usually treated with pity and "oh you'll grow out of it when you fall in love" type crap. Yes, The Movement is basically the most "Gail Simone" comic there has ever been, but I applaud her for it.  She also shows an interest in dealing with issues raised by the Occupy movement as well as being unafraid to show a city where the police are corrupt and bully the underclass relentlessly hence the formation of "The Movement" to stick up for the less fortunate of Coral City where they are based.  Simone is aided in this by Freddie Williams II's expressively gritty, thick lined artwork that gives the whole thing a more down-and-dirty look than your more usual superhero comic.

I'll introduce the characters before we get started, they are Virtue, who can ride peoples emotions and use the power she takes offensively and acts as the defacto leader of the group; Tremor who can cause localised earthquakes; Mouse who can speak to and control rats; Katharsis (who was introduced in Simone's Batgirl run) who doesn't have powers but can fly using home made wings and has superior hand-to-hand combat skills; Vengeance Moth who can form a glowing green moth shape around her and use it as a shield and fly when doing so, and they are joined in the first issue by Burden whose powers manifest as a demonic style possession.  They range from being in their late teens to early twenties which helps explain some of their more ill thought out plans.
Officer Whitt sexually harasses a minor.
It is night time in Coral City.  Two cops, a brutish older one called Whitt and a younger one called Pena are busting a couple for drug dealing.  The man insists he is not a dealer. Pena wants to let them go with a warning, Whitt says Ok but they keep the drugs and "your girlfriend gives us a little peak." 

Before he can ogle her boobs, he hears his words being played back, suddenly they are surrounded by masked figures with smartphones replaying his words over and over.  Back at the precinct the Captain is shown video footage of the incident being played on the news, provided by the hacker group "Channel M".  Furious he tries to fire the officers, Whitt laughs the incident off saying the girl looked older than sixteen.  Officer Yee says the captain can't fire them as the force is now run directly by the city council and he'll have to go through them.  Then he is told "The Cornea Killer" has struck again.

We cut to a young man, Burden standing outside a church.  He looks lost and lonely so the pastor invites him inside even though Burden says bad things happen to him in churches.  The captain is at the scene of the Cornea Killer's latest victim and notes a puddle of water under the dead body, same as the other victims.  He tries to send Whitt and Pena away from the scene, another officer called Yee says they are "good cops."
Burden's power manifests.
Inside the church Burden suddenly turns demonic, his head spins round 180 degrees much to the alarm of the pastor who runs away.  The police are informed and they think it might be the Cornea Killer.  The captain leads the cops to go check it out.  We are then introduced to the winged Katharsis and Mouse with his beloved rats who are lurking nearby checking out what is going on.

Inside the church, Burden is levitating and tells the captain "hell says hi by the way."  Mouse then rides in on a wave of rats and introduces himself as the Prince of them.  Burden turns normal again and begs the pastor for help.  Outside, Tremor uses her earthquake powers to disable the cop cars.  The captain, now outside the church, calls for reinforcements, then Virtue comes up behind him saying "I see you captain, and you are trespassing".
Mouse, the Prince of Rats.
Katharsis confronts Whitt and baits him into a fist fight which she wins, knocking him out. Virtue tells the captain she is part of "The Movement", she uses his emotions to ride to his home.  When she returns she tells him his wife is having an affair with officer Yee. Then she informs him:

Virtue: "You're in the tweens.  From tenth street to twentieth street, that's ours now.  No one wants you here."

The captain says there is a killer in the church.  Virtue says there isn't, there is just a screwed up kid who has been told he was possessed and has the superhuman powers to make it happen, "we'll look after him".

They will find the killer themselves, then she tells him to "get the hell out."  The captain goes into the church now Burden is gone with the Movement but the pastor and his flock are now all wearing masks and tell him he is no longer welcome.
Mouse, Tremor, Virtue, Katharsis, Burden
The Movement also capture Whitt and Pena in all the chaos and are leading them cuffed and blindfolded to their headquarters.  Whitt makes various threats that Virtue brushes off.  She takes off their blindfolds and reveals them to be in an old garment factory that was once a sweatshop where many women and children died due to negligent health and safety.

They have quite a few normal people hanging around there as well, one of them is the girl Whitt tried to sexually assault and she slaps him hard.  Virtue puts them in a cell, Pena says they are sorry for what happened but Whitt tells him to shut up.  Whitt says putting them in prison makes them no better than the factory owners who locked the workers in and caused their deaths.

Tremor says he has a good point.  Virtue agrees, "that kinda stung actually".  Then Vengeance Moth appears and says Mouse is losing it and freaking some of the kids out.  Virtue leaves her guarding the prisoners, she offers them a fruit snack.  Mouse is grieving the loss of his favourite rat "Mr Trouncer."  Virtue comforts him and gets him to calm down.
Nooo, not Mr. Trouncer!
Elsewhere, the Captain is brooding about being thrown out of the Tweens.  Then he is told Whitt and Pena are missing.  The captain says he witnessed a man on a tidal wave of rats, the cop cars were swallowed by an earthquake and he saw a boy turn into a biblical demon.  They will return, but they are bringing more firepower.

The Movement have a meeting in the childrens playroom.  Virtue asks the others what she thinks they should do with the prisoners.  Tremor says they should let them go, "this whole plan is ridiculous".  Angrily, Katharsis says they should mess them up.  Virtue says no, that's evil, which is what they are trying to fight.  Katharsis also asks why Burden is there with them, Virtue says they need more muscle.

Burden: "You are speaking of me as if I had superpowers.  I don't. I'm possessed by a dark lord of hell.  My soul is foreit."

Tremor returns to the subject of the prisoners. She says she thought the whole point was to show them confessing their misdeeds, "if we start torturing prisoners, I'm out".

Katharsis accuses her of being a spy, someone has been leaking Channel M secrets and she believes Tremor is the source.  Katharsis says the Cornea Killer is out there taking eyeballs from homeless people and she is going to investigate and she departs saying she knows who to ask about all this.  The others decide it's time to go and see "the Witch".
Katharsis questions James Cannon.
Katharsis arrives at the home of James Cannon.  The man who runs Coral City.  He insists he is just a developer, but Katharsis says he tells he city council what to do.  At the homebase of the Witch, the Movement are attacked by her loyal followers, at the same time Cannon sets a load of armoured goons on Katharsis.  After fending off their attackers, the Witch appears to take them on, she is better known as "Rainmaker" (a hero from Gen 13, a comic from the Wildstorm universe).

Katharsis puts up a good fight against the goons, but is overwhelmed.  Cannon says to take her to the precinct, he is going to interrogate her himself and when he is done she'll beg to tell him where her friends are.  The others are not doing very well battling Rainmaker.

Elsewhere a homeless man is begging out on the streets when a small raincloud appears above his head.  Realising this is the calling card of the Cornea Killer he tries to run but is cornered.  He begs the Killer not to harm his dog, "I'm not a monster" replies the Killer.

At Movement headquarters, Vengeance Moth brings the cops some burgers.  Whitt deduces that because the burgers are still warm they must be close to a burger joint.  Vengeance Moth says she'll have to be careful round him.  Whitt says that imprisoning them for a first offence is something the police wouldn't do, so are the police "more merciful" than they are?  Vengeance Moth says she isn't the person they should be talking to about all this, they should talk to the person who set it all up, Virtue.
Introducing Rainmaker.
Rainmaker keeps up her attack, but Mouse manages to grab one of her followers and Virtue says he'll bite his neck if Rainmaker doesn't stop.  She does so and Virtue is finally able to tell her they don't work for "the man."  She tells Rainmaker that the Cornea Killer is killing people and leaving evidence making it look like she did it.  Rainmaker says they need to talk to James Cannon about all this.

Rainmaker: "He looks at Coral City like it's a failing business and he smells blood in the water."

He wants a perfect city, with everyone in their neat little boxes.  He doesn't hate them, they are just "in the way".  Virtue asks her to join them, but Rainmaker refuses saying she just wants to be left alone.  But before she departs she gives Virtue her number and tells her to call her sometime.

Then they get the news that the cops have Katharsis. She is shackled to a chair in the police station and is being brutalised by Cannon.   Virtue appears in the captains office and she apologises for telling him about his wife cheating on him.  She proposes an exchange of prisoners, he explains she doesn't get to come in here and make demands.  Virtue says she tried to be nice, then she shows him a large crowd of protestors that have gathered outside.

Virtue:  "I tried to be nice.  Now we tear your damn 'house' down to the ground."

Virtue says she can read his emotions, he is angry but there is fear there as well.  He says her people will never win and will get hurt trying.  Virtue just wants her "soldier" back.  The captain asks her who made her this way "who are you?" Virtue responds soon it'll be "easier to ask who we aren't."
Virtue and captain Meers.
And the protestors start rioting, overturning cops cars and beating down the precinct door. Time for some flashbacks, Mouse was born into a life of wealth and priviledge.  But he didn't fit in and left home, feeling he was "born wrong.  Wrong species" and down in the sewers with the street kids he found he could communicate with rats.

Mouse: "Being poor doesn't make someone bad.  I just want people to know that."

The captain orders everyone into riot gear to quell the mob now in the station.  Virtue meanwhile has flown off.  Down in the interrogation cell, one of the officers is having second thoughts about what they are doing to Katharsis.

She has a flashback, she was an immigrant to the US as a child from Laos.  She joined the police force, but one day, frustrated by a creep who murdered an immigrant girl like her and got off, she hunted him down and showed him the meaning of fear.  And so she ended up on the run.
Katharsis being "interrogated".
Cannon is informed the station is under attack and as he leaves, heavily implies they should kill Katharsis to cover up what they did to her.  Amongst the chaos, Tremor says to herself that this isn't right.  She remembers her childhood, and how her family came to the US from Bengal after she got the label "witch" for showing off her powers.  One day she got in a fatal car crash in which she was the only survivor.  She couldn't face her family and left home.  Lost, Amanda Waller, the DCU black ops specialist found her and asked her to infiltrate the underground that wants "to overthrow our country".  So she became a spy.

Virtue finds her and says she senses Katharsis is going to be killed, also a tank and choppers are on their way.  The rioters corner a cop and start crushing him, Burden comes to his rescue and has a flashback too.  His deeply religious father scourged him daily to try and beat the devil out of him.  But it didn't work, so Burden left home to protect his loved ones.

Tremor faces the tank and disables it saying The Movement are her friends, "I have much to atone for.  And please tell Waller I quit".  Rainmaker also appears and takes out the choppers for them.  The captain makes his way down to the sub-basement where Katharsis was being held, but Mouse, Burden and Virtue have got there first.  He allows them to leave, and Virtue tells him to clean his house, "it's positively filthy".
The Movement take care of their own.
We then see a TV newsreader reporting on the riot and it informs us that in at least six cities, new branches of The Movement are being formed.

Newsreader: "Some citizens, discontented with what they see as an abusive, uncaring authority structure, have called these people 'heroes'.  For all our sakes, let us pray that they are right".

Next day there us a meeting of the city council.  Cannon says he is bringing in some additional firepower.  The council is considering abandoning the city, but he shows them news reports of The Movement in other cities saying where would they go?

The captain meets with Virtue in a diner, he tells them he knows they are planning to put the two cops on trial.  Virtue realises they have a leak.  He tells them superhuman help has been summoned to deal with them.  He offers her a civilian board to deal with police malfeasance, they go back to patrolling the tweens and civilians can ride along with police at their own risk.  Virtue thanks him but says they can't stop it now, it's already in motion.
Whitt and Pena on "trial".
We cut to Whitt and Pena on "trial" in Movement headquarters.  They are charged with sexual harassment of a minor.  Pena pleads guilty immediately much to Whitt's disgust.  This isn't enough for the girl Whitt tried to grope.  Tremor puts the case for the defence noting both men have multiple citations for bravery.  Whitt says he doesn't have to explain himself, but Pena admits they messed up.  The trial is being viewed online via live streaming, as Pena says he puts his life on the time every day only to be called "pig" by the kids he is trying to help.

Whitt keeps raging that he has nothing to say, and "you're fooling yourself if you think this changes anything."  Meanwhile Mouse is outside composing a love letter to Tremor.  A sex worker nearby is confronted by the Cornea Killer and one of Mouse's rats goes and tells him, so Mouse goes to investigate.  He rides in on his wave of rats and starts fighting the Cornea Killer as the sex worker makes her getaway.

Vengeance Moth escorts the cops back to their cell while the "court" deliberates.  Whitt grabs her chair and tips her out of it.  Pena is immediately apologetic, but angrily she floats upwards surrounded by a moth shaped energy field.  Katharsis tackles Whitt saying he has reached a new low attacking a woman in a wheelchair.
Vengeance Moth gets mad, Mouse comes to the rescue.
Tremor disables Katharsis briefly and creates a tunnel for the cops to escape down having had enough of all this shit.  Katharsis calls her a traitor to The Movement and Tremor says maybe she doesn't want to be in it anymore if this is how they carry on.

Mouse and the Cornea Killer fight to a standstill, then suddenly a gang of superhumans appear.  The Cornea Killer introduces them:

Cornea Killer: "Coral City's new police force, the Graveyard Shift.  Consider yourself an all your little friends evicted."

Katharsis and Tremor start brawling as they do so the people viewing the live stream start tweeting about it.  Vengeance Moth evacuates the building as people are scared of what Tremor's powers could do.  Then Virtue appears and breaks them up.  She reads Tremor's emotions and says she is scared, scared for Katharsis's soul if she becomes a murderer.
Tremor and Katharsis work out their differences.
Sadly, Tremor says they were supposed to help people, but look at Burden cowering in a corner, "he's in pain all the time.  What have we done to help him?"  The Cornea Killer is still out there, they used Burden as a weapon and they were just worried about a show trial for two dirty cops.  Vengeance Moth wonders if they can actually help Burden.  Virtue thinks they can.  She then sends Tremor and Katharsis off to the diner to eat ice cream and not leave until they have shaken hands.

In the tunnels, Whitt makes plans to return and "bust a few heads".  Pena says he just wants to forget this place.  Who really scares him is the guy with the rats, who is currently battling Graveyard Shift.  He puts up a valiant struggle but the sheer numbers tell against him.
Mouse vs. The Graveyard Shift.
Virtue ties Burden to a bed and takes Vengeance Moth aside to say they are going to perform a placebo exorcism using her emotion powers.  Tremor and Virtue go to the diner and order sundaes.  Katharsis says she isn't going to apologise, Tremor says "you are a soldier not an executioner".  They tuck into their ice cream.

Burden has transformed into his demonic self.  She pretends she has some holy water she is going to pour on him and his emotions show extreme fear.  She pulls that fear out of him and tells Burden he is free now.  He is delighted, saying "Bless you. Bless you" in gratitude.

Cannon is outside walking home to his penthouse when a single rain cloud appears above him. Then the Cornea Killer appears and says "Hi dad.  You won't believe the night I've had."  Tremor and Katharsis are much more friendly to each other now and grudgingly Katharsis says she'll rein herself in a bit more.  The call a truce and shake hands.  They leave the diner only to be confronted by Mouse, badly beated and tied up, strung from a lampost with the sign "I've been a bad rodent" hanging off him.  End volume one.
Poor Mouse!
I really enjoyed this.  Speaking as a member of the Class War Federation in my misspent youth and a currently paid up member of the lefty, commie, pinko feminist-homosexualist axis some of this read like Anarchy 101 to me, but I appreciate Simone is writing for a younger, more conservative audience than me.  I like a group that is full of dysfunctional people but still stays together like a family, Secret Six was the same, also written by Simone.  The idea of having real street level heroes representing the underclass is a pretty radical one, and having it made up of immigrants and having a majority female membership only makes it more appealing to me.  Suggesting the police aren't paragons of moral authority is also quite brave in this day and age too.  The art is excellent, Williams II excels at facial representation and puts in detail where it matters, just check out his rendering of Mouse's rat friends. Simone gives us a collection of divergent personalities and allows the conflicts to work themselves through in a way that feels natural.  Like I said in the intro, they are all pretty young, who didn't make questionable decisions at that age?  Coral City is just lucky the two most powerful members are the level headed ones.  Unfortunately there is only one more volume, six issues left to go as Tumblr popularity didn't factor into sales success.  I'll be covering volume two in a couple of months time.  See you then.


  1. I was sad when this one was killed by dc to. mouse is my favourite, he's funny and the rats are cute!

  2. Mouse is sweet, but I am glad book 2 addressed the fact he must smell awful. I like Katharsis best, she so angry.

  3. "Prince of Rats" doesn't sound nearly as cool as "Mother of Dragons."

  4. I'll give you that. I think flying in on the back of a dragon is more impressive than riding a wave of rats. Also I don't think dragons would smell as bad as a horde of rats. Still as superpowers go, communing with rats is pretty unique.

  5. Yeah, there's a reason for that...

  6. Hey it's not poor Mouse's fault all the best superpowers have been taken, he's just doing the best with what he's been given! :p

    He has a surprisingly large female tumblr fanbase. I put it down to his allergy to wearing shirts, and the inability to convey smell via comicbook pages.