Top 10: The Forty-Niners

Reviewed: April 30, 2007
By: story by Alan Moore / art by Gene Ha
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
104 pages, $23.99

I have earlier dealt with the two volumes of Top Ten stories, each of which was a serial graphic novel in which we could sort of say that Hill Street Blues met the Justice League. Alan Moore’s clever series took place in Neopolis, a city filled with super or meta powered citizens who need a special police force to deal with their reality.

In the Top Ten series, Neopolis had been around for a generation or so and its routines were well understood by all of its imaginary denizens Only we, the readers, were puzzled by events.

There would have been a time when everyone was befuddled, when the whole thing was just being established. Top Ten: The Forty-Niners tells that story.

As the title suggests, the year is 1949, just shortly after the end of WW II, which worked out about the same in Moore and Ha’s alternate world as it did in ours. The difference lies in what they did with the returning super-vets. Rather than turn them lose in the general population the authorities relocated them to an entirely new city, Neopolis, where they won’t do anyone else any harm.

This is the designated home for anyone with powers and abilities, any masked vigilantes who might have spent the late 30s and the 40s battling crime and busting heads. No more of that in Neopolis, not unless you’ve been hired by the police force and have a badge.

So we follow the lives of Jetlad and the Sky Witch, two former combatants who end up in the same rooming house trying to sort out their lives in the wake of war’s dislocation.

In four chapters we have a warmed over Nazi plot to change the past, an insurrection by some displaced eastern European persons who happen to be vampires, and an attempted civil coup by some pilot veterans who are positive they can keep order better than the elected government.

The writing is solid, the art is on the realist end of the comic book spectrum and the colour scheme is deliberately muted compared to most comic books.

In all, it’s a good story which stands up under several readings. Part of the fun of Moore’s ABC work is the way he takes on established superhero creations and give them his own little twist, a good hearted parody which nevertheless tells you he knows the original and respects it.