Best Shots Review: ELECTRIC WARRIORS #2's 'Sense of Scale Matched Only By its Sense of Spectacle' (8/10)

DC Comics December 2018 solicitations
Credit: DC Entertainment
Credit: DC Entertainment

Electric Warriors #2
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Travel Foreman and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With all the mountains of mythology that has become the bedrock of DC Comics, there’s something wild and unrestrained about Steve Orlando and Travel Foreman’s work Electric Warriors, a work that — beyond a few minor touchstones to DC continuity — feels not like it’s from another company, but almost from an entirely different world of storytelling. A sort of Hunger Games meets sci-fi bestiary, Electric Warriors proves to be some of the most unpredictable and exciting work that Orlando has written in quite some time, a work whose sense of scale is only matched by its sense of spectacle.

It’s a big universe out there, and Earth has quickly learned that they are small fish in an endlessly large pond — but rather than the galaxy fall into unregulated war, each planet has designated their own Electric Warrior to engage in diplomatic trade by combat, with each one-on-one battle having larger implications in terms of intergalactic weaponry or vital, life-saving food and energy supplies. To that end, Orlando’s structure feels akin to Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja and Foreman’s run on Immortal Iron Fist, but with even bigger stakes in play. Having knocked out his brother and taken his place in the tournament, our hero Ian Navarro may have Superman’s indestructible cape, but he’s ill-equipped to be fighting shapeshifting Saturnians or telepathic Vrangians. If it feels confusing to read that sentence, well, it’s just as overwhelming to get thrown into the deep end of the pool — but sensing that level of detailed worldbuilding is exhilarating once you realize you don’t have to know all the answers just yet.

And what fun worldbuilding it is. One of the highlights of this book is the varied alien races that have come to the wargrounds, and seeing how these various cultures — usually just window-dressing for various faceless goons elsewhere in the DCU — wind up influencing these very three-dimensional characters. Ian’s counterpart, for example, is a sentient octopus named Kana, whose animal abilities have been raised to “metaphysical levels,” as Orlando writes in one of the book’s more delightfully trippier beats. Meanwhile, we’ve got the battle-loving Khund warrior jury-rigging explosive beer so she can have something worthwhile to drink, or even throwaway lines like the Vrang Fleet’s stores of solar condensation or some sort of weapon known as the Cortex Crown. You can tell that Orlando is pushing himself to cram as many ideas into this weird stew, and honestly, that effort gives Electric Warriors a flavor that feels unique to any other books on the stands.

Of course, much of that also comes from the artwork of Travel Foreman, who I honestly couldn’t have thought of another book that would be a better fit for his talents. Foreman’s anatomy and faces have always been skewed and distorted, but with the alien races that populate Electric Warriors, it feels like this artist has been right at home all along — in particular, the battle pages are Foreman’s best work, as he’s able to play around with panel layouts in a way that almost feels reminiscent of Frank Miller, but with the bright pop colors of John Cassaday and Laura Martin’s run on Astonishing X-Men. Foreman is also able to do fun things with design here, whether it’s Ian’s robotic, sonic wave-channeling facemask, or the fluid and alien body language he gives Kana’s tenticular frame.

In a world built on the backs of Kryptonians, Amazons and Atlanteans, Electric Warriors feels like a totally different beast altogether — instead of adhering to the epic structure of the modern-day DC Universe, this book feels like a weird island made together of all the jetsam and flotsam of this shared continuity. And yet, that weirdness works, because Orlando and Foreman commit to it so fully and without self-consciousness — instead, they bank on our unfamiliarity with this world, peppering it with just enough familiar touchstones that we don’t get totally lost, but with enough new angles that trying to predict where the story is headed is a fruitless endeavor. And that’s okay. Sit back and enjoy the ride instead — while the destination is still a mystery, watching the creators of Electric Warriors get to flex their muscles makes this journey more than worthwhile.

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