By Jonathan Edwards
Retcon is shit. It’s always been shit. There was zero chance this finale was going to be anything but shit. But, that makes it no less of an infuriating endeavor to read. Frankly, even with only four issues, this book has no business being a monthly series. Waiting until the third issue to start touching upon the marketed premise is entirely too long in any scenario, but here, where that also amounts to over half of the series, that’s unacceptable. They might’ve been able to get away with it if this had been published as an OGN, but that still wouldn’t fix the bigger, more foundational problems. Namely, Retcon doesn’t do anything with its eponymous concept. Yes, it’s about a repeating timeline, but unlike, say, Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, the “Mystery Spot” episode of Supernatural or pretty much any other story that also does that, we only get to see the events of a single repetition play out. As such, the already shallow characters get little to no genuine development, and we effectively can’t understand what makes the current repetition different, let alone the significance of that difference, if we don’t see at least some of the other repetitions as well. Sure, they kind of try to explain what’s changed, but there’s no satisfaction in that. Time loop narratives just don’t work when you don’t show the fucking time loops.
In what has become typical fashion for this book, the lion’s share of this fourth and final issue is dedicated to introducing elements that hadn’t ever been foreshadowed and then expositing about them because, well, they were never foreshadowed. In this case, that time is divided in two. Half of it is spent focusing on how Alexandra needs to sacrifice someone in order to turn back the clock, and, apparently, the sacrifice for this repetition needs to be Detective Case. And, the other half focuses on Brandon’s mostly trivial conversations with Mr. Bluesky (he’s a new character introduced at the top of the issue that looks like a generic grey alien but tall and wearing a suit, top hat, and sunglasses). But, at least we get the alien antagonist’s name. It’s Babel. Why that of all things? Because, as it states, “I gave you language. I am your creator after all.” Yep, turns out Babel is God, and it created humanity so that they could build it a machine that it could use to fuel its spaceship by destroying the Earth. And while that part’s all well and good, I’m not convinced that writer Matt Nixon actually understood the biblical account of the Tower of Babel before attempting to incorporate it.
If you’re not familiar with the story or its details, here’s the Cliff notes version (even though it only comprises nine verses of a single chapter of Genesis): united by a single common language, humanity travels East until they end up in Babel (which, by the way, is the Hebrew word for Babylon). There, they collectively decide to build a tower that will reach the heavens. Upon hearing this, God decides to come down and confuse the one language so that no one can understand each other. And, that’s the origin of all the world’s languages. So then, Babel was named after the place they were created rather than the entity that created them, who it’s also supposed to be? What the hell kind of sense does that make? Furthermore, is the name metaphorical, or is the suggestion that the events of the Tower of Babel really happened? If so, wouldn’t Babel corrupting the unified language that already existed be nothing but counterintuitive to its goal of leaving Earth and the humans’ intended purpose of helping it achieve that? Is it supposed to be some middle ground where Babel created humanity and gave them language in a different way, but then the biblical comparison was made for the sake of poetry? Because that’d be stupid, would rely on far too much inference from readers, and it would then raise the question of why there isn’t just one language if Babel only gave it to people to help with their sole task? Or, wait, is that even why Babel did it? However, the biggest question is why give Babel a special name at all? It evidently wasn’t important enough to come up before the last issue, and once it’s finally mentioned, it’s so offhanded that it feels more like we missed something than an introduction.
I didn’t have any problems with the art this time regarding the style looking wonky at times or anything of the like. What I do have a problem with is the last page being only two panels (one being all white and the other being all black), where all of the storytelling is done through dialog, even though it’s referencing a visual joke about Liefeld-esque ‘90s comics. Now, I’m far more inclined to believe this was a writing decision from Nixon rather than an artistic decision from Toby Cypress, but seriously? Only the second occurrence of anything meta in this whole dame series, and you can’t bother to show us the aesthetic that the characters are actively referencing? That’s just plain lazy.
In conclusion, why is Lady Ironwrath a character in this book? She does nothing, her existence affects nothing, and she’s sorely without any definable personality traits. I mean, I guess she’s the only one that empathizes with Detective Case before he’s sacrificed, but that’s not enough to stand on its own. And, perhaps that makes her the aptest metaphor for Retcon itself. There’s been a lot of talking throughout these four issues, but not even the creative team has actually said anything. Elements are introduced, forgotten, and then immediately replaced. And, none of it amounts to anything in the end. This is hands down the worst thing I’ve read from Image this year. Do yourself a favor, and don’t your money or, more importantly, your time on it.