THE CONSCIENCE OF THE MASSES
This turns out to be a crucial issue of this new series. Katharsis is being held captive by the Coral City police department, under the orders of wealthy businessman James Cannon, who is personally interrogating (ie “beating”) her, and Virtue has brought her team to rescue her. But she didn’t just bring her fellow heroes, she also brought a crowd of the homeless masked teens from Channel M, whom they’ve been sheltering, and they’re ready to bring the whole damn police HQ down. A full-scale riot erupts, and the cops fight back, putting everyone in danger.
What’s interesting here is how Gail Simone uses this story to show how even movements started for positive reasons can sometimes get away from those goals, as many of the members of Channel M don’t seem to be so noble as the heroes of The Movement claim to be, and the righteous crowd quickly turns into an unruly mob, more interested in causing destruction and getting revenge on “the system” that they (rightfully) feel has turned it’s back on them.
The highlight of the issue is that we finally learn the “secret origins” of most of the main members, their backgrounds and where they came from. This clears up the racial identities of some, which had been unclear, and while we don’t get specific ages it seems that not all of them are teenagers, as I assumed in the beginning. I don’t want to spoil too much (because, seriously, you should read this for yourself), but the broad-strokes are:
Mouse is Jayden, born to wealthy White parents, but attracted mice and rats from the time he was an infant. This lead to a childhood where he was ostracized until he ran away to the streets.
Katharsis is Kulap (I would later learn that she’s based on a real person), a Laotian/Thai immigrant who become a police officer in Gotham city, but after tracking down and brutalizing a criminal who went free on a technicality, she became a wanted vigilante.
Tremor is Roshanna from India, when her parents moved her, she got mixed in with some wild girls and got into some serious trouble, so she ran away. And the big secret is, just as Katharsis suspected back in issue #2, Tremor is spying on the group, having been recruited for the mission by Amanda Waller.
And Burden (still no real-name yet) is from a small religious community. Because he would occasionally shake uncontrollably (it looks like it’s implied that he had epilepsy or something), his parents thought he was possessed, and and tried to beat the demons out of him, until one day he took on his demonic form (it’s also implied that his natural super-powers manifested, changing him into that form because that’s what his subconscious saw himself as).
Virtue remains a mystery, and the primary plot of the issue is her trying to keep control of the situation and just get Katharsis out before too many of her followers, or the police, get hurt. The cops call in the National Guard, armed with tanks. Rainmaker reappears, sooner than I expected, to join the fight. In the end, Virtue and Captain Meers reach a sort of detente. But the entire incident goes viral online and in the news, and we see that Channel M is inspiring copycats in other cities, including Gotham, Metropolis, and San Francisco. Whether this is a good or bad trend, remains to be seen.
Again, the main strength of this book is the way Gail Simone is able to address and raise questions about Social Justice, Class Warfare, and Racism, Sexism, and Income Inequality, so effortlessly without making this feel like a “message book”. And this issue has plenty of action and exciting fight scenes, which Freddie Williams II draws beautifully. This series gets better with each issue.
And if you don’t want to take MY word for it, check out this blog covering the first 4 issues, and previewing the 5th: