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.