By Jonathan Edwards
God this book sucks. So hard. This issue finally touches on the “retcon” premise this book, and it makes something clear. You absolutely have to go into this book knowing the premise for it to make any semblance of sense. Otherwise, you’ll hit the third issue, and the resetting time concept will come completely out of left field (and, not in a good way). But despite all that, the premise also isn’t wholly accurate. Retcon isn’t so much the “reboot of a comic book miniseries that has never existed” as it is the events right before said reboot has always happened in the previous iterations of this universe. Of course, it’s possible that time is meant to always reset to the first panel of the first page of the first issue, but the exposition here suggests it goes back much further than that. And when I say exposition, I mean there’s a lot of it. In fact, Retcon #3 is practically nothing but exposition. Too bad none of it has any emotional impact since it’s trying to make a point of how “different it is this time,” but we never saw any of the previous attempts, so that doesn’t end up meaning much if anything.
We open with a flashback to Nathan as a baby. Chris Dodge (the guy who could turn into a bear in the first issue), The woman with tattoo’s that Nathan’s been looking for, and famous occultist Aleister Crowley are all there to preemptively bind the demon Merry Sue to Nathan so that it doesn’t overpower him in the future. Or something. As it turns out, the tattooed woman is Alexandra David-Néel. Is there a good reason that both her and Crowley made their way into this book? Nope. At best it’s just so the writer can feel clever about themselves. Because, you could swap out both of their names, and it wouldn’t make a damn difference to the story. Alexandra doesn’t even resemble the woman she’s supposed to be based on at all.
Furthermore, the whole Merry Sue shit is played so seriously, and it doesn’t work at all. If you don’t already know, “Mary Sue” is a term coined for overly perfect characters in fiction that’re usually some level of self-insert of the author for the sake of wish fulfillment. Merry Sue, on the other hand, is just a generic demon that apparently has enough power to defeat the alien that is this book’s real antagonist. It can also adapt to circumstances by giving Brandon different powers in order to keep him, and thus itself, alive. However, I’m going to give Nixon the benefit of the doubt that that’s not the sole reason for the name, as that would be really lame. And, if it’s supposed to be some kind of satire (e.g. calling heroes with immense powers that are “the world’s only hope” Mary Sues), then it completely fails. Because it’s not satirical. Nothing in Retcon is satirical. If it was, we’d actually be able to tell what the fuck was being satirized.
The art this time around is fine. It’s not great, but its stylization works for the most part, and at least it never gets as wonky as that handful of moments from the last issue. Although, baby Nathan does look kind of like a monster, falling somewhere in between an uncanny valley doll and a bad tattoo.
We also learn that Alexandra is responsible for the reboots, and she does it after they lose the fight against that Space Invader alien thing (it’s still yet to get an actual name). Additionally, with each reset, it has a chance of inhabiting General Swan (like it is this time) or Chris Dodge. Except for the first time, when its target was Alexandra instead, but that led to an instant reboot. Also, the timeline has been reset a total of nine times, and they’ve yet to win (yeah, no shit. Thanks for taking the time to make that, of all things, clear). A couple of questions here. Why can’t the alien takeover anyone else? Why doesn’t Alexandra train Brandon from a young age in the new timelines? Why only nine? I mean, that’s still single digits. Doesn’t really convey a ton of gravitas now, does it? At least, not when you compare it to things like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow, where it’s clear things are repeating hundreds of times. Or hell, in the Haruhi Suzumiya period is repeated at least 15,498 times. But seriously, you’d think Alexandra would be a fuckload more proactive, what with this being a doomsday scenario and all.
Bigfoot shows up near the end of the issue in a sort of Swamp Thing-esque capacity. And to be honest, that’s a pretty cool idea. Does it make any sense in this book? Hell no. It’s just like having Aleister Crowley suddenly show up and having Alexandra turn out to be, well, Alexandra David-Néel. They’re things that happen just so they can say they did. It’s not smart or interesting or engaging. It’s a bad comic desperately trying anything to get you to read it.