NTS #3 – Class of 2064

New Talent Showcase #3 (Class of 2064)
“Class Trip, Part 3: Dark Side of the Earth”
Words & Letters – Todd Klein
Art – Scott Hampton
Colors – Shelley Eiber
Edits – Marv Wolfman & Ernie Colon

Yowie Wowie… today we’re wrapping up yet another of our features!  Man, New Talent Showdays is turning out quite a bit different from (say it with me) Action Comics Daily!  I really thought that these stories would stick with us for, at the very least, 4-6 weeks.

Heck, the back cover of this very issue promises that we’ll also see the “startling conclusion” of Forever Amber!  So that’s all-three of our NTS “flagship” features done… already!  This is one wild ride, innit?  I tell ya, when I finally get around to publishing the “dedicated” New Talent Showdays page… it’s gonna look disjointed as hell!

Let’s wrap up our time with the kids and Free Earthers!

We open with Pern and Tycho rescuing Chryse from the hot air balloon just in the nick of time before it hovers over the microwave receiver.  Feels like we’ve missed a scene between chapters, as I don’t quite know how we got here, but alas… here, we are.  After getting to safety, a still unconscious Chryse begins to seize.  Pern’s all sorts of worried, but Tycho assures him that she has epilepsy, and appears to be past the worst of her seizure.  Pern’s a bit annoyed that Tycho did some background checking on the object of his affection… but, whattayagonnado?  Chryse comes to just in time for our trio to be confronted by… FREE EARTHERS!

While elsewhere, the Canyon Police bumble and stumble their way into a plan, the Big Free Earth (BFE) fella proceeds to chat up the children.  He claims to mean them no harm, and just wants to show them the truth.  They hop into his hooptie, and fly over the site of World War III’s Ground Zero… Phoenix, Arizona?  Whaaaa?  Well, Phoenix has such a bad case of “little big town syndrome”, I’m sure this was a fist-pump moment… even if it’s only due to the absolute decimation of our fair city.

The Big Guy keeps talking… and shares with the kids the story of how the ones that survived the bombings had to deal with radiation… all things we’ve come to expect from fallout-type situations.  The craft lands and the kids exit, only to find themselves at a “Radiation Camp”.  The BFE tells Chryse that they need her.

Back at the Canyon, the Police still try and figure out how to track down and rescue the children… but, they’re too boring to really dedicate an entire paragraph to, so… back to the Camp!  Chryse has her memory jogged about her last visit to the Doctor… before the trip.  If you recall, from way back in Chapter One, that Doctor had mentioned something about getting the “virus” out to Earth.  Well, this is when that happened.  The Virus was placed into Chryse’s medication in hopes that it would arrive safely where it was needed.  The BFE removes his gas-mask-helmet gimmick, to reveal his deformed visage.  He tells the kids that he’s dying… however, the “virus” can help those around him who are not yet that far gone.  Chryse doesn’t even need to think about it, she hands over the virus-laden meds.

The BFE puts his helmet back on and asks the kids to relay the true story of the Free Earth movement upon their return to Mars (or wherever).  Pern and Tycho agree… and, check this out, we get a group-hug out of it!  Isn’t that the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?

Right about now, the Canyon Police finally catch up with the kids… and they’re taken back to rejoin their classmates.  When the dust settles, Pern tries to “seal the deal” with Chryse.  Well, I’ve got some bad news for ya, Copernicus… the Martian Girl only has eyes for Tycho!  Chryse and Tycho retire to the bedroom… and, from the hearts floating about… are probably in the process of doin’ it!  Welp, didn’t expect that… but, I should’ve.

The story proper ends the following morning.  Tycho makes a comment about The War of the Worlds… and compares it to this instance of the Martians landing on Earth.  He just hopes they were in time.

That was a pretty satisfying ending, wunnit?  I don’t think it’s anything we didn’t already see coming, but it was still quite good.

From the get-go, it felt as though we weren’t given all the information we needed about the Free Earthers.  Even in the earliest pages of this feature, it seemed as though they were more “freedom fighter” than “terrorist”.  Though, I suppose nowadays that might be a dicier and more contentious statement than I intend for it to be.

We’re living in an era where the media has a measure of control over the “narrative”.  Regardless of your stance, you always know when “your side” is getting the short shrift in the news.  The Free Earth Movement has been condemned… to the point where the children of Mars/LaGrange are told, in no uncertain terms, that the FE’s are the bad guys.  If you recall, the one bit of advice Pern’s father gives him before leaving on the trip was to watch out for Free Earthers.

The earlier parts of the story had several “doth protest too much” sort of statements… so, the ultimate reveal was pretty-well telegraphed.  If a writer tries to convince you over and over again during the earliest part of their story that something walks and talks like a duck… you can be damn sure it’s not gonna wind up being a duck.

That said, this was all perfectly fine.  The cast was, for the most part, likable… and the threat/non-threat felt substantial.  The writing was quite good, with some fun moments of humor in otherwise dire scenes.

I think my only problem with Class of 2064 overall was… the sorta-kinda disjointed feeling I’d get between scene transitions.  I feel like there were a few scenes left on the “cutting room floor”, ya know?  I could be completely talking out my ass (and I likely am), but some scenes just “happened”, ya know?  Last week we talked about the “beach stories” that the classmates reflected on.  Feels like we should’ve seen that… otherwise, why bother referencing it? Even consider the opening to this chapter.  Pern and Tycho are already saving Chryse?  Feels like we missed something.

Also, the brief cutaways back to the Canyon Police… felt like both too much and not enough time was spent with the cops trying to track down the kids.  It was a worst of both worlds situation… made me wonder why Klein even bothered with it.  I don’t think we needed a page of the Police lamenting the fact that they’d have to deploy a helicopter to facilitate the search… but, we got one!  While this added a “scene” to the story… it didn’t add anything substantial.  Ya follow?  There really wasn’t any need for it, because nothing actually came of it.  I’d have been fine if the Canyon Cops just showed up at the end, and told the trio that they’d been looking for them all this time.

Overall, though… I think if you sat down with this story, you’d have a mostly good time with it.  As mentioned, the characters are likable… and, as cliche as it might’ve been, it’s always fun to see the girl wind up with the nerd, right?  I probably ought to mention the art… which remains fantastic throughout this entire feature.  I really wish there were more chapters of this.  I haven’t looked into the future… so, for all I know, we might just get another go-round with these kids down the line.  I kinda doubt it… but, ya never know!

Definitely recommend checking this one out.

Tomorrow: The King’s Treaty…?

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