If I ever were to read a comic book, it might be this one.
–Sarah Michelle Gellar, on Freshmen
Infinite Crisis #5 has been delayed at least a week, and my review also must be delayed. However, the final of Freshmen’s first six issues did arrive on time, and I will be reviewing the Top Cow mini-series, which may also be the start of a regular title. The group, co-created by Seth Green, is the latest in a line that extends back to the Golden Age Red Tornado and includes Mystery Men and Great Lakes Avengers: the superhero spoof that ultimately affirms its affection for the genre.
Title: Freshmen #1-6
Created by Hugh Sterbakov and Seth Green
Writer: Hugh Sterbakov
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Andrew Pepoy, Tyson Wengler
Various artists worked on the covers.
A group of university frosh and the school mascot receive superpowers. They must deal with the consequences—- and the inevitable world-threatening menace.
One girl hasn’t arrived yet. I already like her best.
Annalee, aka “Puppeteer” actually works as a serious character in a deliberately goofy series. The psychology of the story’s most serious scenes, where she enters Paula “the Seductress” Pophouse’s mind, ring true.
Norrin, aka “Wannabee,” the comic’s comic fanboy character, hasn’t been written entirely over the top, and as a result he’s both funnier and more interesting. We’re also regularly reminded of why the one character who knows the superhero genre and its conventions doesn’t get superpowers when the others do.
Three members of the group serve no purpose. This isn’t a problem with the angry girl, Cacophony, who leaves college and uses her abilities to become a celebrity. Two others pose a problem. Jimmy gains the ability to attract things, magnet-like: he gets written out of the story for no really good reason until the final issue. Another, brutally harassed by frat boys and self-conscious about his masculine shortcomings, finds a particular masculine part of his anatomy enhanced. He gets used as a running joke for the remainder of the story. The member in question remains off-panel and we don’t learn exactly how long it gets, but you can guess how long this particular joke remains funny.
Granted, these characters will appear again in hypothetical future issues, but they only clutter this story.
Originality: 2/6 We’ve seen this before: second-banana heroes get played for laughs, but finally come together and save the day. The college campus setting provides an interesting twist. We’re always aware of the parodic and satiric elements, but they’re drawn from reality. Aspects of campus life look like this, and so do many of the students. I think every frosh class has a braniac-turned-party-animal like Elwood. Many students will recognize the unregistered boy- or girlfriend who might as well be taking classes. Some, unfortunately, will be familiar with the likes of the AXP Boys, sadistic jerks who still haven’t outgrown their high school freshman perceptions of the world.
Artwork: 5/6. The series features strong, conventional comic-book art, and the variant covers, by various artists, should be sought.
Some of the characters could be more strongly differentiated.Story: 4/6.
Characterization: 4/6 The writing is wildly uneven. Some, like Annalee, Liam and, to a lesser degree, Norrin, work as believable characters, in the context of this story. Others have been given too little thought. Jacques, initially amusing, gets used as a really stupid plot device.
The sentient beaver gets laughs.
Emotional response: 4/6 I got caught up in these issues at times. At others, I found myself growing bored and occasionally confused.
Flow 4/6 The handling of certain characters can disrupt the flow, but the basic story moves along nicely. Most issues even feature a recap.
Overall: 4/6 This mix of silliness, social commentary (well, sort of), and superheroics won’t likely make your best-of-the-year list, but it makes for an entertaining comic.
In total, Freshmen #1-6 receive a score of 27/42.
My more developed review, including commentary on individual Freshmen and their role in the story, appears here.
More may be learned from the official site and yes, a trade paperback will be released.