Longshot is back in his own series because … no one … demanded it! Well, I’ve been demanding it for decades, literally, but I don’t think they did this just for me. Christopher Hastings’ and Jacopo Camagni’s Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe hit the comic stands this past Wednesday, and it’s a book I’m having a difficult time getting a solid read on.
The thing about Longshot is that he’s not one of Marvel’s flagship characters by any means, so this series seems to be coming from out of left field a bit, but whatever. I’m a giant Longshot fan, so I’ll take it. With this series, however, it does seem as though there’s suddenly a push to raise Longshot’s profile among Marvel’s stable of heroes, to raise him from a d-list character to maybe even as high as a b-list character, so maybe Marvel has bigger plans in store for him. A movie? a Netflix series? Only time will tell. But for now, what we have is a fairly inauspicious premiere issue of this new mini-series.
The original Longshot six-issue limited series by Ann Nocenti and Art Adams is by far my most fondly remembered comic from my youth. See, I identified with Longshot more than any other superhero Marvel and DC were pumping out in the ’70s and ’80s. His primary, character-defining power is that he’s lucky. He can manipulate probability in his favor so things work out for him. It’s not really all that impressive as far as superhero abilities go, but that’s exactly what made him so special.
Everyone experiences “luck” from time to time, so whenever any sort of luck fell my way as a kid, I would think, “Wow! I’m just like Longshot!” There were no claws or healing factor needed, no laser eyes, no metal skin, no suit of armor. All I needed was a little bit of luck to feel like I was a superhero too. That was powerful stuff to a little kid. So I cherished this small story about this guy from another dimension who was lucky, and I still do. I’ve got all six of the original issues that I bought in ’85-’86, the hardcover collection, and I’ve got every toy released that was based on the character proudly displayed. In short, the character has meant a lot to me over the years.
That’s why it’s always been so painful to watch Marvel mishandle the character again and again. Now, don’t get me wrong here, it’s not that the character has exactly “suffered” or anything. He got to be a member of both the X-Men and X-Factor, which is a pretty prestigious honor for any Marvel character, but he was never really a good fit. He doesn’t belong on a team. He thrives best when he’s on his own experiencing his own adventures in the context of his history and who he is, which is why I was so excited when this new mini-series was announced. He is no longer bound by a team and forced to serve as a permanent background character; he is now free to be Longshot again, and that’s an awesome prospect, so I was really excited to see what Hastings had cooking for him.
When it comes to this series, though, my expectations may have been too high. What I mean is I think I was expecting this new series to do for Longshot what The Dark Knight Returns did for Batman; it was going to revitalize the character and show the world at large what I already knew for so long — that Longshot is freakin’ awesome. Unfortunately, based on this first issue, I don’t think they’re going to get that message, at least not this month. Things may change, of course, as the series progresses, but I’ve had to seriously readjust my hopes and expectations based on this first issue.
Longshot’s story begins in a barbershop. His long-reviled mullet is replaced with a hipster, bike-messenger haircut and a set of chops that rival Wolverine’s. The mullet has been gone for some time, actually. He wasn’t sporting it at all throughout his time in X-Factor, but I guess this series is supposed to serve to introduce Longshot to a wider audience and to reinvent the character to a degree, so it kicks off with the overtly symbolic gesture of getting a new haircut. OK then. No big deal. I get it. This is a new Longshot for a new age and all that.
The remainder of the comic primarily serves in reminding us who Longshot is and what his abilities are. Again and again. Seriously, it seems as though the word “luck” is mentioned on almost every single page, so if you’re at all familiar with the character, this gets old and annoying really fast. I get that it’s important to reestablish who he is because hopefully new fans will be born as a result of reading this series, but it comes across as much too forced and contrived — and way too pedestrian. Much of the narrative is built around characters’ dialog, so in order for things to move forward, the characters have to say things that gradually build the story for us, so it doesn’t move as naturally as it could or should, making it feel, again, a bit forced.
There are two threads throughout the story that are worth noting, and both converge at the end. There’s a mysterious villain, who actually has a pretty cool design and reminds me of something out of Doctor Who, who is killing anyone who experiences luck in order to maintain a balance in the universe, so naturally he has his sights set on Longshot, the luckiest man alive. At the same time, Tony Stark and Reed Richards have come to possess a Cosmic Cube, which they’re attempting to transport across New York City in a truck. The Cube ends up in Longshot’s hands, through a bit of luck, naturally, and he somehow manages to use the Cube to dispatch the villain, and in doing so, reality is altered and we’re presented with the events of the same day, but with a twist: Longshot’s luck factor is apparently on the fritz. That sets us up for what’s to come next.
It’s honestly not a bad premise for a Longshot book, and after reading through it a few times, I’ve come to appreciate it more than I did through that initial reading, so I’m HOPING there’s actually something here to hope for. I want to love this book. I do. But right now I feel like I’m working really hard to convince myself to just like it. Even so, they’ve got me interested enough to want to know what comes next, so I’ll be picking up Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe #2 for sure.
If you’re not already a Longshot fan, this probably isn’t the book that’s going to convert you, but Hastings and Camagni are just getting started, so hopefully they do the character justice.