New Talent Showcase #2 (Class of 2064)
“Class Trip, Part Two: Between Earth and Sky!”
Words/Letters – Todd Klein
Art – Scott Hampton
Colors – Shelley Eiber
Edits – Marv Wolfman & Ernie Colon
Today we’re checking back in with the feature I felt performed the strongest last time out. Let’s see if it can keep up with the quality.
But first… how many folks reading this remember the old tagline for Rice-A-Roni being “the San Francisco treat”? I only ask because I had an interesting conversation with the wife last night. A co-worker of hers had brought in some Rice-A-Roni for lunch… to which, the wife made a comment about it being “the San Francisco treat”. Everybody there looked at her like she had three heads. They’d never heard anything so silly.
Now, usually, I’d just assume that she was surrounded by Millennials (or younger) or whatever, who just didn’t happen to grow up in the 80’s or 90’s… but, this was a pretty diversely-aged crowd. People from their early 20’s into their 60’s… and none of them had ever heard this tagline.
The wife began to second-guess… and wonder if she’d simply imagined this weird tagline for boxed rice. And so, off to Youtube they went… only to find, ya know, a ton of commercials with the jingle. Her co-workers heard said jingle… annnnnd, still none of them remembered it!
Did a little bit of research on it… and learned that they actually retired that jingle back in… 19-friggin-95. A quarter of a century ago! The slogan itself has popped in and out (as recent as 2016)… but, not the jingle. What’s the point without the jingle?! Oh well. Not sure why I shared that non-story, but… I had to tell somebody, and I have no friends. Whattayagonnado?
Onto the book!
Chapter Two opens with the Lagrange Field Trippers setting down at Grand Canyon Base (after a stop in Hawaii we don’t get to see)… we see this information being reported to that gimp-suited Free Earther that we saw in the “Next Issue” blurb last week. He reminds one of his followers that they need the girl (the Martian with the Virus)… and they need her unharmed. Meanwhile, at Canyon Base, we get us a nice heaping dollop of exposition. Looks like World War III occurred in 2025 (so, I guess this blog will definitely not hit its 10th Anniversary), however in the years since, Earth has started to make something of a comeback thanks to resource-trading with the Lagrange Colony.
We get a brief cutaway with that weirdo Free Earth dude, where he talks a bit more about the nebulous virus. I’m really not sure what to make of it at this point… hopefully, that’s intentional. From here, we pop back over to the Canyon, where dozens of hot air balloons take in the sights from above. Our main man Pern would really like to go on one… mostly so he might get the opportunity to be alone with the Martian Virus Vessel, Chryse Whatsherface.
The teacher, Mr. Rampling gives our guy the “thumbs up”, and so (after apparently trading out his orange shirt for a green one) he makes a spectacle out of asking for the fair Martian’s company. She turns him down flat (after making reference to something that went down in Hawaii… that, again, we didn’t see). Instead of hangin’ with Pern, she’d much rather be accompanied by Tycho! Tycho, being the nebbish weirdo that he is, passes her along to a new kid named Robert Paya… who, apparently knows more about hot air balloons than anybody.
The kids then hop in “mule”… which is to say, a little ship, so they can jet off to the balloon landing site. Just then, a balloon draws near, however… it’s already occupied… by some Free Earthers! The baddies (well, I think they’re the baddies) fire oodles of tranq darts into the quartet of kids… and manage to knock Robert completely out. Amid the distraction, they nyoink Chryse into the balloon with them.
She begins to panic… then, feigns like she’s going to pass out. We’re getting a lot of that this week in New Talent Showcase, ain’t we? Anyhoo, as she sways around on weird street, she knocks the gun out of one of the terrorist’s hands… and grabs it! She holds the Free Earthers up, threatening to fire… before reality sets in, and she realizes that… she hasn’t the foggiest idea how to pilot a balloon.
Back at “Wotan’s Throne”, Pern and Tycho shake off their own tranqs… and proceed to hop into the “mule”. Naturally, neither of them have ever flown such a thing, but… Pern’s gotta Pern, he doesn’t give nary an “eff”. He does what he can to make the thing take off.
After a quick check-in with the Martian Hostage Girl (where she laments the fact that Earth’s gravity is too damn heavy), we wrap up at the Canyon Police Center, where… some guy… notices that the balloon with Chryse on board is about to fly into a Microwave Receiver… which will make it go boom. Then, he’s held up… I think? Maybe?
Bit of a mess, right? Not bad… just, I dunno… “sloppy”?
Just like when we ran through Action Comics Weekly, I get the feeling that American comics writers haven’t quite “solved” the eight-page story. The pacing is kind of hectic… and uneven. It’s hard to get our bearings when we bounce from tight-paneled action to entire (somewhat wasteful) pages of exposition. It feels kinda backwards.
That said, there still is a lot to like here. For one, the art… it’s still quite excellent! Well, outside of a couple coloring gaffes, and the fact that a lot of the kids have “Byrne face”, which is to say, their faces (and haircuts) are identical, so it’s a little tough to tell ’em apart in a crowd. I guess that’s more a “storytelling” complaint than anything though.
The story… well, we get a few callbacks to things, that honestly, seem more interesting than anything going on on-panel. We get a callback to a “swimming mishap” having to do with Chryse and Pern in Hawaii. Frankly, I think I’d rather be seeing that play out. I feel like we really ought to care about these characters, otherwise, what does it matter when one of ’em gets abducted? We’ve seen Chryse on, what… a half-dozen panels? All we know is she’s the Maguffin Martian… and that’s just not enough to get me to invest in her well-being. Maybe the scene was cut to fit into eight-pages? Maybe we’ll actually get to see it later on? I dunno. All that having been said, I did think it was funny that she chose Tycho as “chaperone”.
Overall, a weaker chapter than the opening… but still, (despite my paragraphs of kvetching) plenty to dig.
Tomorrow: Dungeons, Dragons, and… Detention?!