I’m Going to Miss the Movement

dc comics, gail simone, movement

The last issue of The Movement was #12, out May 7. Yes, I’m late talking about it, and yes, I’m part of the problem, since I didn’t draw attention to it while it was running. But now that it’s over, I’m realizing the void it left.

The Movement #12 cover

This came home to me reading the “final issues” of a couple of more standard DC titles this week. I thought the last issue of a series might wrap something up, but Suicide Squad #30 instead sets up a whole new status quo and ends with a plug for the coming New Suicide Squad #1. That’s not an ending, that’s a promotional effort. It’s a hamster wheel of the same old ideas, a problem rampant across the company’s line. The Movement was contrast, new characters and new concepts, which is probably why it failed — superhero readers are uncomfortable without their nostalgia hooks.

The Movement was a group of the down-trodden, poor kids trying to survive in an uncaring city, a throwback to superpowered characters standing up for those who couldn’t defend themselves. Given how many decades superheroes have been subsumed into supporting authority, it was shocking to see them taking on cops early in the series (even though these particular police officers were abusive and corrupt).

I know I’m defining them as what they’re not, but what they were were well-written by Gail Simone, who has an affinity for fringe characters, weirdos that are still consistent and understandable. Freddie Williams’ art was detailed and grungy, putting the reader in the environment of back alleys and city tunnels. This was a series about young people defining their own way in the world. Most of the abilities weren’t outright gifts but oddities, a mixed blessing that had to be accepted and come to terms with. Mouse communicated with rats and vermin and had become almost one of them, making him difficult to be around. Burden was raised in a devout fundamentalist family, which made his transformation into what appeared to be a demon psychologically destructive to him. Virtue’s father was killed by cops after being told she was dead to protect him from her abilities. (A wild twist on the usual orphan superhero.)

This final issue opens with a mission statement from Virtue, the group’s leader, about the need for compassion and helping others in an increasingly selfish society. These outcasts bonded together and wanted to expand their aid and community, but they weren’t old or rich or acceptable enough to be listened to. These are the kinds of stories we need to be telling to attract younger, diverse readers to superhero comics, but the older white guys who run and read the genre likely didn’t have enough extra in the budget to try or stick with it. It wasn’t a fun, comfortable read, but a challenging one.

As I said, I’m part of the problem, because I enjoyed it, but I didn’t care enough about any superheroes any more to plug it or get emotionally involved. (One suspects, with new titles like this, that one shouldn’t get too attached, a self-fulfilling prophecy.) Perhaps that’s what’s happened to those who would appreciate this kind of story — they’ve moved on. After too many years of neglect, being ignored, and abuse from those who make superhero comics, other genres provide more excitement and entertainment without the psychic baggage.

I appreciate Gail Simone for trying to redeem the type — although that’s likely too pretentious a statement and heavy a burden for any one creator — but perhaps the genre is beyond worthwhile redemption at this point. With the big companies continuing to increase emphasis on crossovers and market flooding, these small, exciting titles can’t exist for long. Doing a book like this for DC means more people will try it, but the liabilities — including not being able to try these characters elsewhere — outweigh the potential positives.

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