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Dec 28

Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe

Posted on Saturday, December 28, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

Marvel’s publishing strategy over the last year or two has shifted away from the scattering of under promoted miniseries that used to reliably prop up the bottom end of the chart, and understandably so, since most of them  were basically thrown out there to die unmourned and unnoticed.  A few of these books do still emerge, though, and since they’re no longer a dime a dozen, they get a bit more attention than before.

Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe is one of these oddities.  Whatever may have prompted Marvel to publish a Longshot miniseries written by Christopher Hastings (the creator of Adventures of Dr McNinja) and drawn by Jacopo Camagni (who’s done a scattering of work on the likes of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers), it surely wasn’t visions of dollar signs.

Longshot is a tricky character to make work, because of the utterly arbitrary nature of his luck powers.  There are no clear ground rules for what he can and can’t do, and without careful handling his flukes can degenerate into cop-outs.  The problem is mitigated by the established idea that his luck only works if he has the right motives, which at least brings all his achievements back to his innate goodness, and plays into his original conception as a figure of naive optimism.  Still, most writers keep his luck powers at a fairly low level, to avoid destabilising everything else in the story.

If he’s appearing in a team book, there’s probably little choice.  But this is a miniseries and a solo story, and so Hastings feels free to go a bit wild with the whole thing, and to prod at how Longshot’s ridiculous level of luck actually works for him in practice.  This version of the character is both charmingly blasé about the improbable chain of coincidences that make up his life, but also conscious that there’s only so far he can push things, and relying on his luck can be a recipe for disaster.  Even so, that doesn’t prevent him from doing thing like trying to stop a Helicarrier from crashing into New York by simply standing in the way and hoping that this will trigger a miracle.  More elaborately, much of the first issue is built around setting up a chain of entirely unlikely coincidence that all comes together at the end when Longshot needs it to work for him, so that we can see everything lumbering into place long before Longshot even realises he’ll need to use his powers.

It’s an interesting take on Longshot’s powers, and while it seems like one that would be difficult to sustain over the course of an ongoing series, that’s not something Hastings has to worry about.

As a story, though, this doesn’t quite come together.  The basic idea (which only really gets clearly explained towards the end) is that Longshot was going to wind up in possession of a stray Cosmic Cube, and a cosmically-charged version of his powers would have unbalanced the universe way too much.  So the In-Betweener, as the officially sanctioned force of balance from the 1970s cosmic comics, shows up intending to kill him.  He arrives just as Longshot gets the Cube, Longshot wishes him away, and the rest of the mini is basically Longshot and assorted guest stars in an alternate version of the Marvel Universe where the In-Betweener has been split into Order and Chaos, and Order has enlisted SHIELD to help him control all magic.

It’s going for “shaggy dog story” with the added appeal of some cute moments for the guest stars.  And there are fun ideas in here, most notably the Cube itself being split into an adorable teddy bear in the real world, and a growling demon which only appears as its reflection in the mirror.  But it’s flawed.  A lot of characters, guest stars in particular, end up with the same vaguely ironic voice.  The nature of the story, and the need to set up coincidences and chain reactions driven by Longshot’s luck, make for a fiddly and hard-to-follow plot, and while Hastings struggles to keep the story clear while getting through all those mechanics.  It’s by no means impossible to work out what’s going on, but it takes rather more effort than you’d want, in a story that ought to feel lighter on its feet.

Camagni’s work is solid.  His Longshot redesign brings the character up to date a bit, without changing anything fundamental.  He’s a decent house style superhero artist, and he deals impressively with sequences that must have presented some storytelling challenges.  It’s the convolutions of the plot rather than the way they’re drawn that cause the problems here.

I like what this series was going for; the take on Longshot himself works.  But the story doesn’t quite land.

Bring on the comments

  1. Tim O'Neil says:

    I liked this because, even though I can’t disagree with the bulk of your criticism, I think it hit the tone of what a Longshot solo story needed to be quite well. You’re right, there were a few too many moving parts. But I also liked that the story didn’t seem very interested in pulling its shoulder by patting itself on the back for how clever it was – it was very brisk, enough so that you can forgive the occasional failure to dismount.

  2. It was a book–for me at least–where the sum of the parts added up to more than the whole. That is, there were enough amusing bits that I forgave the rest of it. I think my favorite gag was the geriatric Magneto having a senior moment.

  3. Chaos McKenzie says:

    AGREED! Great sense of Longshot, story needed some work. Enjoyed overall though.

  4. Si says:

    I have to admit, there’s bits of the story I couldn’t quite understand. All the flashback-style panels in muted colours for example. I think he’s seeing how events should have happened via psychometry? I don’t think anyone will disagree that the story lacked clarity.

    I love the characterisation though. Longshot gets to be cheerfully optimistic and innocent without being an amnesiac child or an idiot. And the fact that he’s fully aware of how ridiculous his back story is, but has decided that it’s all good fun, is perfect. He’s basically the mirror image of Deadpool.

    The art was nice too, but those sideburns have got to go.

  5. Rhett says:

    Si, you’ve just really made me want to read a Longshot/Deadpool team up story.

  6. caleb says:

    Longshot’s powers are that he’s the Gladstone Gander of the Marvel Universe…? I was not aware of that.

  7. Michael P says:

    Longshot’s more of a reverse Gladstone, since Gladstone’s luck generally benefits only him.

  8. halapeno says:

    Has Longshot ever been either paired with or pitted against Domino?

  9. sagatwarrior says:

    Not that I’m aware of. However, he has teamed up with Black Cat.

  10. Drew says:

    halapeno: Yes, once, in a pretty terrible X-Force story. X-Force’s plane was in a flaming tailspin toward the ground, only to suddenly level out and land safely. The team all thanked Domino, who told them not to give her credit; that while things had a habit of going her way, this was beyond anything possible. Then they all notice Longshot lounging in the cockpit, feet on the dashboard, saying, “Oh, I don’t know… sometimes you just have to be born lucky.” (I took it as further affirmation of Marvel’s general “magic trumps science” rule; as in, if they ever fought, Longshot’s luck would win out because his is magical. On the other hand, Domino’s crafty enough to trick Longshot into thinking he’s acting immorally, flipping his luck to bad.) Regardless, it kicked off that awful Shatterstar origin storyline that we all pretend never existed.

    sagatwarrior: I don’t think I ever read that one. When did Longshot team up with Black Cat?

  11. G-Funk says:

    Drew – did he not team up with Black Cat in an X-Factor story, where they were (IIRC) chasing Ballistique? Think it was only a few panels.

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