All Winner Society
Staff: Rodney Lockett, Joe DeSantos, Lawrenz Lano
Generic characters, doing generic things, spouting generic lines, for generic reasons.
So today I got my teeth on the “All Winners Society” by Iron Gate Comics. I like superhero stories and I dig team ups. So the name of this comic reminded me of All-Winners Squad, an obscure comic team made in the late 40s so I figured I’d give it a read. The cover looks schlocky and a little low budget so I’m expecting great and/or terrible things from this one so I’m going in excited for one of those two.
So let’s get this out of the way- the art is on the low end. It’s decent enough, but the graphic design work on this comic is just downright terrible. The cover has difference clouds rendered by Photoshop for the background, the names of characters are hard to read over stuff, generic fonts are used, and everything looks like it was laid out by a 1st year graphic design student. I don’t normally comment on coloring in particular but they just decided to slap one color on characters and add shading via their lines. Not a single use of complex colors is in this comic and they make liberal use of high contrast primaries- which is just ugly looking. Heck- on page 9 they just have a character who is entirely colored one color (and later color them more complexly).
I’m also not entirely convinced some of these images were not just traced. The poses seem stilted, expressions awkward, and nothing seems to cohesively bind a scene together. And that’s unfortunate- because some panels are much better set up. This comic is obviously a throwback to golden age comics but it’s really not picking from the best parts of it. I don’t think the low-budget art was a “design choice” but a matter forced on them. There are issues with perspective (page 12 is a good example), with consistent proportions, backgrounds, the sequence of actions, and a whole host of other things. Most of the character designs are clearly just pastiches of other mainstream characters or just uninspired. I really went into this comic expecting good things but it was just a nightmare.
The lettering is as bad as the artwork. It’s cramped, small-texted, and shoved right up against the edges. You’d think the letterer had never heard of smallcaps for their text layout and every dialogue balloon is laid out using the rounded corner shape creator from Illustrator.
Writing / Story:
Our setup is as generic as the artwork. We get a hefty dump of exposition dropped on us on the first page. It is 1944, the NAZIs have time travel, it is being testing, team has to stop them. The dialogue is painful, most spoken dialogue is expolistional, you can predict every action, the attempts at character development are superficial, and it all just falls flat.
The problem with a team-up book is that you don’t get a chance to connect with characters. You have over a dozen characters running around with little or no introduction (mostly the latter). They are generic characters, doing generic things, spouting generic lines, for generic reasons. It lacks any sense of subtlety or complexity- even by Golden Aged standards .
The overall plot is really just one big fight scene- the generic good guys vs the generic bad guys. (We don’t know WHY one group is evil. Just that they decided it was) That might have been interesting but we don’t know (and are not told) what the character’s powers are thus we have no idea of the stakes. If one character can take bullets to the chest (like we see on page 13), should we be scared when someone else is shot at? Hell- by the end of it I wasn’t even sure who was on what team. The scenes just flip between timelines with no heads up and with so many characters you just met- you just have to try to keep track of who is doing what to who is what timeline. Sometimes they remember to mark it (see page 4 and 20) but other times they just skip it entirely (like why wasn’t it on page 7 during the establishing shot of the “modern” team. Only learned the date on page 23) It’s a total mess.
I will note that it was a nice touch to see some characters from other publishers (changed enough for legal reasons) on page 21. Always a fan of Black Terror for some reason. Not sure it adds much here- it’s a bizarre choice to have a “Ga! I know that guy! He is supposed to be Cat Man!” moment during a somber scene. Kind of a tonal disconnect.
The end of this comic notes that “This project started out as a bunch of strangers playing Cities of Heroes and having a common interest in golden age heroes.” and that REALLY shows. It’s a super-generic slugfest with characters we have no emotional attachment to that someone REALLY wanted to make. This comic suffers from the all too common “generic hero comic” syndrome. They think putting together the same tropes that they see in superhero comics makes it a good comic and it always lacks it. At least superhero comics like iHero TRY to do something new (even if they totally fail at doing it). Now I’ve reviewed comics that use this premise and have a lot of fun with it. One of my favorite comics like this was The Misadventures of Electrolyte and The Justice Purveyors and you can DO the campy pulp-era aesthetic well, even if your art isn’t outstanding (see Crunch: Revenge) so long as you know what you are doing. This is an amature effort- a novice playing with concepts they’ve seen rather than inherently understand. The creative process has to generate these tropes- the tropes should not dictate the creative process.