Script: Patton Oswalt, Jordan Blum and Tim Seeley
Artists: Christopher Mitten and Tess Fowler
Colors: Ian Herring and Tess Fowler
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 13th, 2023
Dark Horse’s Minor Threats universe returns in The Alternates #1. The Minor Threats mini-series introduced a world very similar to The Boys and DC’s Injustice series, where the heroes at times are as bad as the villains they fight. Where Minor Threats focused on a team of D-level villains trying to redeem themselves, The Alternates features a team of heroes who were lost for 3 years in a fourth-dimensional realm called The Ledge. Now they’ve returned and much like recovering addicts, they’re having to deal with the daily grind of a normal life again. But some of the heroes are finding it hard to function, and others just want one more taste of The Ledge to keep from going mad.
I loved the Minor Threats mini-series. It introduced a world with a Justice League-style group of heroes called The Continuum (including a female powerhouse called The Searcher who is their version of Superman/Highlander and The Insomniac, who’s a hero much like Batman, but all his gadgets have a sleep theme instead of a Bat theme).
Aside from tons of colorful characters in the book, the world itself has lots of fun history and details to it. One city has a building built on top of a dinosaur skeleton because when The Continuum beat the rampaging dinosaur, they just left it there to decompose and the city constructed buildings on and around it. There’s another city with a zone having a permanent time anomaly, due to The Continuum beating a time-traveling supervillain who created the anomaly but finding that afterward none of them were smart enough to get rid of it, so random people wanting to escape their lives jump into it to go to the past or future in search of something better. The Alternates #1 introduces a group of heroes similar to the Legion of Substitute Heroes in the Legion of Super-Heroes book. They are heroes who aren’t quite good enough to make it to the A-list.
There’s Crab Louie, who looks like a giant two-legged crab, complete with giant pincers and an exo-skeleton; The Persona, who can access the skill or knowledge of any of her past lives, including wielding a sword with prowess like a Samurai or figuring out crimes like a Sherlockian Victorian Detective; Kid Curious is a Reed Richards-type super-genius who loves experimenting with micro-universes; The Tripper has an amulet that allows him to find anything anywhere (yes, GPS systems kind of made his amulet redundant); The Divider can split his body into smaller and smaller fractions until he has an army of hundreds of miniscule versions of himself. Finally, there’s Mary Marie the Multi-Monster, who can shapeshift her body to look like any legendary creature (She often sprouts leathery wings and talons like Dracula).
Mary Marie serves as the narrator of the book, so we’re seeing everything through her eyes. On the surface, she seems to be the most well-adjusted of the group, but she yearns to return to The Ledge just as much as everyone else. Through flashbacks, the book does a great job of showing each team member’s experience in The Ledge and it’s no wonder normal life is such a grueling torture for them now. Mary Marie was a queen in that realm, having every physical, emotional and spiritual need met twenty times over. Now back on Earth, she lives in a tiny apartment in a bad area of the city, barely scraping by financially and meeting one loser after another via online dating. Mary is definitely the most interesting of the group, though The Persona is pretty intriguing too, having a Question vibe about her, sporting a cracked mask that hides her features.
Like the characters in Minor Threats, you feel for these people. They were sent to stop a threat, lost three years of their lives and now that they’re back, the heroes of The Continuum barely notice them. The bulk of the issue is spent with Mary Marie, but I hope in future issues we get more time with the other characters. I’d love to follow The Persona on a case, or see Crab Louie’s life at home with his wife. Crab Louie seems a lot like The Thing to me, he’s a very simple good guy who wants the best for everyone and is doing his best to have a good life even though he’s trapped in giant crab-like body.
Christopher Mitten and Tess Fowler’s art on The Alternates #1 do a great job of showing the contrast between the characters’ life back on Earth in Twilight City and the realm of the The Ledge. Christopher Mitten drew the scenes set on Earth, giving Twilight City a dark feel, a feeling of urban sprawl. Zeppelins glide across the sky and massive skyscrapers loom moodily over the city. Even though Twilight City is massive, it feels claustrophobic. The characters themselves are expressive (save for The Persona, of course) and have distinctive looks. Tess Fowler drew the scenes set in “The Ledge” and these scenes look straight out of a fantasy book, reminiscent of Colleen Doran’s work. It’s stunning visually, a great counterpoint to the scenes set in Twilight City.
The Alternates #1 is a fantastic beginning to a new mini-series set in the Minor Threats universe. The characters are fascinating and it’s great to see another corner of this universe explored. This universe is ripe for hundreds of different types of stories and I look forward to exploring it more in upcoming issues. Recommended.