This issue ends the "Dead Hand Saga." It’s not what you think. It’s not that thing where you sit on your hand until it goes numb and then… you know. It’s not that. It’s something else entirely. Since it’s been a few issues I’ll remind you that The Dead Hand is a robotic extension of the Armor Hunters. A living ball of robots that kill planets. A little more badass than the Deathstar just a little less badass than Unicron as far as automated giant planet destroyers go. After they wipe out The Vine home planet and take X-O’s ass to school they head toward Earth. It’s not looking good for our hero until he assembles a group of Armors to take out Dead Hand. First off my favorite thing about this is Aric, our Armor clad Manowar, just summons all the Armors and immediately asks where their king is. When he is confronted with the reality that the other Armors are more of a hive mind he just immediately announces that HE is their king. Brilliant, that is just so keeping with the character that they’ve spent 37 issues crafting. I can totally see him doing that which makes for a pitch perfect character note.
The other thing I like about this is how it compares to other books, most notably this month’s Jungle Jim, so I would like to do a little compare and contrast to explain both what this book does right and what Jim does wrong. Comic storytelling is a perpetual medium, it’s intended to go on forever. There is usually no end in sight unless you are some kind of indie comic or you are using the visual medium to tell a limited story. Big Man Plans clearly has an end in sight, something like X-O though will go on forever. Ideally. In that way comic writing is much like wrestling. Wrestling is intended to go on forever. They may not always use the same characters and they may use, reuse or drop plots but they are intended as long form storytelling. So I look towards the storytelling in wrestling to see how it should be done in comics. In wrestling you have your Babyface (the hero, in this case Aric) and you have your Heel (the villain, in this case Dead Hand) and you have a Program between the two (here it is the story arc, establishing threat, hero failing, hero regrouping, hero succeeding). Now in a successful Program you make your Babyface look vulnerable to the Heel and you let the Heel get some heat before blowing off the Program in a big event where the Babyface wins. The successful part is having something ready to go when it’s done. You have to look at where your Babyface is and what is he going to do next. Where is his momentum? He either has to fight the Heel again or work another Heel you’ve been preparing on the side. If your Babyface has no one to work, the crowd will turn on him, the ‘Face will lose is momentum and you can’t move on to the next Program. You’ll end up having to scrap the whole thing and do something else.
What does the wrestling lesson have to do with anything? Well, let’s look at the Program Robert Venditti just masterfully finished. We have our Babyface (Aric) and we like him, he’s a badass. The Vine get wiped out by the Heel (Dead Hand). Aric does a run in to try and save The Vine but the Heel gets the heat by beating up Aric. Aric regroups, attacks Dead Hand and wins. It’s what we all wanted. But here’s where it’s a good Program. There are hints that the Armor will eventually take over Aric. That’s potential New Heel #1. There is a flashback of the Armors destroying the Armor Hunters and along with a threat by Aric that if the Armors aren’t doing good he will take them out himself. That’s potential New Heel #2. Finally there is a hint that the Dead Hand will come back in a different form and there’s your rematch! We have a strong build-up, a satisfying ending and we’ve got 3 directions this story can go, any one of which could pay off at any time in a big way. It’s exciting because the Program was done so well that we can have confidence that the next Program will be just as good if not better.
On the other hand we have Jim. Our Babyface (Jim) comes in, jumps our Heel (Ming? It’s not real clear) and beats him unconscious, it’s barely even a fair fight that’s how badly Jim wins, before ending the Program with exactly zero potential Heels. I mean it will probably be Ming again but since he’s kind of Flash Gordon’s Heel, Flash will probably get that victory. The Program fails, our Babyface comes on too strong, our Heel comes off too weak and we end the Program flat-footed with nowhere to go. It’s a weak program that causes me to lose interest in any new Programs that might come up because this one was done so poorly.
This book is a winner. It’s the John Cena of comic books. Say what you will about John Cena, the guy looks strong when he needs to look strong, weak when he needs to look weak but more than anything you can count on him to deliver a Program. You can count on this book to deliver. It should be called the fucking Mail Man because of how regularly it delivers. If you aren’t reading THIS, you’re missing out. Don’t miss out.