Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Comic Review: Longshot


One of my favourite runs of X-Men was the stint in the eighties where Chris Claremont relocated the team to a ranch in Australia. Not only did this give it a fresh feel but there was also a great roster - peak Storm with her mohawk fresh from knocking the crap out of Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue before overexposure, the original non-tarty version of Psylocke, Colossus, Havok, Dazzler and Longshot. It was all very eighties, best epitomised by Longshot, who was brilliant and likable but remains very much a product of his time. 

His genesis came shortly before he joined up with the team. Marvel were going through one of their periodic pushes for fresh talent and characters (this being the era of the ill-fated New Universe) in the mid-eighties and this unearthed Ann Nocenti, a kind of talented version of Cat Yronwoode who had already attracted attention for offing Jessica Drew on a brief run on the closing issues of the already doomed Spider-Woman and would later go on to a bleak, responsible but rather good residency on Daredevil. Between that she devised a character for the eighties to help update Marvel and then-novice Art Adams was paired up to create the alien Longshot. The resulting character was striking for his Bowie influenced mullet and actual proper utility storage, including a near omnipresent satchel and grappling hook not to mention a bandoleer of throwing knives at a time when comic characters generally produced such accouterments from thin air. Definitely a character for the eighties and his look would go on to influence the likes of Cable and everything else terrible in the early nineties.

The actual introductory story for the character drops the reader in the deep end, the character arriving in our world with amnesia (which would be something of a motif for the guy), unaware of his name, powers or even physiology. In typical Nocenti style the alien-ness of it all is doubled by Earth being a pretty weird place, full of survivalist nuts, crazed film directors and suicidal husbands. Things gradually unfold over the six issues, which also introduce Mojo, Spiral (whose design takes some time to settle down), Ma'gog and Gog, not to mention Ricochet Rita, a human stunt-woman who serves as a love interest at this stage. Nocenti's script varies between richly detailed (with a great many allusions outside the usual purview of the era) to flowery and overcooked; her ever-present social commentary is just as variable, sometimes wry and witty and others overbearing and clumsy. The brilliance of Art Adams blends perfectly with this strange world, though sadly one of the few occasions the man was able to actually draw an entire series suffers from lots of ugly block colouring.

Most of the characters are vividly drawn, notably the conspiracy theorist Eliot who initially allies with Longshot, Rita and urban failure Theo; fun cameos from both She-Hulk and Spider-Man also hit the spot as does a more substantial appearance by Doctor Strange. The long game approach does mean by the final issue the reader has a fairly good handle on the amiable title character too while both Mojo and Spiral flesh out nicely, though some of the rest of the supporting cast are neither here nor there and there's a stomach-turning bunch of kids lobbed in.

Really though the big problem is a treacle pace and the six issues really do drag in places; when I found out the final one was double length (having previously only read a couple of odd parts) my heart genuinely sank. It is an unusual complaint from the era to go with the unusual character but really with so little information about basically anyone in the comic it's more frustrating than anything. A planned sequel series never happened and Longshot would next pop up in the X-Men a few months later, once again without his memory. 

After a few years the team went through the Siege Perilous for a massive shake-up; Storm would be regressed to a child, Psylocke would turn up as an Asian ninja while Havok and Dazzler lost their memories. Longshot came off worse still by disappearing entirely and would only come back for the occasional Mojoverse crossover as it became harder to fit him into the modern books, the ultimate legacy of designing a character for the eighties being that once they were over he looked rather silly.

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