Thursday, 18 February 2010

Presuming on his Senses! Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man?

So what was the best superhero comic of the last few months? Which single issue managed to convey the poignancy of the heroic act? Which comic presented this inspirational figure in way that grounded them as one of us? My vote goes to Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man? (£3.50) from Accent UK Comics (yes, they're British).

The story begins with news that a bomb has been planted in a famous (fictional) building in London and with only one hour to go before detonation, panic spreads throughout the two mile blast zone. We then meet Bobby Doyle who immediately realises that he will have to get involved. So he stops time.

We then see a flashback that explains the cover of the comic, including the title: One day Bobby was on a train as it began to crash. He stopped time, carried everyone off the train and then started time again. The train crashed and the passengers were amazed to find themselves standing in a field except that one eyewitness claims they saw a blur of human movement...

So Bobby goes to the building and finds the bomb. Taking in the scene of chaos of experts frozen in panic and confusion, Bobby realises that he won't be able to stop the bomb. The only option left - for he is a hero - is to move every person in a two mile radius out to safety. The only problem - and here is the sacrifice - is that although time has stopped for the world, his own body clock marches on. In other words, to save as many people as possible, will take him decades to complete.

This is the most moving study of the heroic act as I have seen for sometime. Bobby never moans or complains about what has now become his life's role. His only concerns are how he will eat, that locked doors will be a problem and that he will have to carry heavier people while he is still young. The most poignant lines come near the beginning when he worries whether he will live long enough to complete his task but reassures himself that his parents are still healthy and in their fifties.

This isn't a character study. There isn't a meditation on heroism. It's simply telling a story of an act of heroism. We know next to nothing about our protagonist and the only glimpse into Bobby's character are the two decisions he makes, once at the beginning and once at the end (which I obviously won't spoil).

Of course along with the responsibility of using ones gift and the added burden of sacrifice, anonymity purifies the heroism (an act of sacrifice may be easier if fame and fortune awaits). The title rather boldly brings to mind both Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and the recent Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader. Both melancholic comics drawing on the last days of two of cultures most famous superheroes. The title here becomes ironic as not only is Bobby's identity a complete mystery, but it even fails to identify his power.

The writing by Dave West is beautifully clear and simple ("He would leave the children until he was 50") and Marleen Lowe's greyscale art is perfectly expressive. Accent UK promise that Whatever Happened... is the first title in their Blessed Cursed imprint (there may be clues about another title on the font and back cover) and I hope that it's the start of a beautiful friendship.

1 comment:

  1. Not to be the comics grinch but since the comic creators are frantically pressing the schmaltz button...

    If he is prepared to improbably spend decades moving people, why doesn't commit to spend the time to learn bomb defusal etc. and work out stratagems for defusing or moving the bomb?

    Sounds like a far better use of his time and much more logical. Not as sexy a sentimental concept though, I grant you that.


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