DC Comics Gets Political with “The Movement”
“Yer goin’ all soft on me, Luis, I swear,” growls one cop to his partner. He then proposes the following to a couple just busted for drug possession, “You go. We keep the evidence. And one more thing: your girlfriend gives us a little peek…then you go.”
Out from the shadows pops a masked kid holding a cell phone, playing those last words on repeat, “a little peek…then you go.” One cop moves in while the other raises his gun, before either one notices they’re surrounded, cell phones blaring. The incident goes viral, but will anyone listen—does anyone ultimately even care?
The Movement is a new comic book series from writer Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Secret Six) and artist Freddie E. Williams II (Robin,Green Arrow). According to Simone, the central question explored by the book is “what happens when powerless people suddenly have all the power?” It’s Occupy meets the French Revolution constructed around lesser known superheroes in a world that’s still part of the greater DC Universe, and something that’s worth keeping an eye on.
The first issue introduces Virtue, Katharsis, Tremor, Mouse, and Burden, a group of disaffected youth who declare war on a society that’s supposedly failed them. The kids use a run-in with the corrupt police of Coral City to stage a hostile takeover of the “tweens,” a set of neighborhoods between 10th and 20th Street.
“We’ll protect these people,” Virtue, the superhero squad’s leader tells the police captain, “Lord knows you never managed.” And she’s right, at least from what the comic shows us. When the police captain tries to suspend the officers who abuse their power earlier in the issue, he runs up against union rules which block his authority to do so.
As a whole, Movement #1 poses a more precise question than the one Simone claims the series will address overall. What happens when exposing injustice and corruption isn’t enough? Movements like Occupy were a direct response to dramatically rising inequality, a phenomenon that had been reported on at length, even prior to the “99%” meme. Anonymous commits digital violence where it sees fit if corporate and governmental abuses of power go remarked upon but otherwise unpunished.
In Movement, a group of marginalized superheroes take over and exact their own revenge (Katharsis beats one of the corrupt officers to a bone shattering pulp), taking back physical space from institutions they feel have exploited it. Going forward though I’m interested to see how Simone addresses questions of legitimacy—something that was more than a little responsible for Occupy’s own unraveling. How will the residents of the ‘tweens’ react to Virtue and her crew? And will they create their own rules and institutions, or simply make their own arbitrary decisions and rule based on power alone?
Williams’s art serves the issue well, and in a few places even rises above what fills most of the pages in DC’s flagship titles. It’s grimy and harsh, but with few straight or jagged lines. Williams prefers soft curves to sharp edges, and Chris Sotomayor’s colors help bring out a muddy energy that seeps through every illustration in the issue.
If the book’s art leaves anything to be desired, it’s that it too often relies on similar layouts which consist of a larger scene with individual panels (usually three) scattered along the side or bottom. This set-up feels fresh in the beginning but quickly grows tiresome, especially since the few pages where Williams breaks this trend are the issue’s best.
“Don’t be too proud of your prisons,” Virtue tells the police captain in the end, “Might end up there yourself someday.” Lines like this leave me hoping that Simone succeeds at staking out new political territory rather than retreading some of the more glib caricatures tossed around in places like The Dark Knight Rises.
Launching opposite a reboot of another comic book, The Green Team, which is set to release at the end of this month, The Movement will have the benefit of a dialectic partner to measure itself against ideologically. If Movement #1 is any indication, the book could be one of the first mainstream superhero comics in a while to provide social commentary that’s more provocative than farcical.