What if Superman wanted to die?
That’s the question the three-issue Dark Horse mini-series Never Ending, which concluded this week, sought to explore. Chuck, an auto mechanic granted powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, has fought crime and saved the Earth from monsters, aliens and a mad scientist driven by jealousy for more than 80 years all while clad in a royal blue tunic and matching scarlet boots and cape and using his real name, and he’s tired.
“The media was always trying to come up with superhero names for me back then, but the good one were already take by the comics,” Chuck laments as he remembers the 1960s.
Now, his wife is dead. So is his only son. He has a granddaughter and two great-grandsons, but he chooses to distance himself from them because he doesn’t want to watch them die too.
In his desperation, he turns to Archie, the jealous mad scientist and his nemesis, to assist in his suicide.
“It’s been years since I did anyone actual good,” Chuck says while remembering his most recent fight was Archie. “This is just a grudge match between two old men and everyone else is just an innocent bystander.”
The plot is filled with potential. Yet, it falls flat. The story, penned by Adam P. Knave (Amelia Cole & The Unknown World) is mostly told through flashbacks, and the it is narrated by Chuck from his perspective just before his presumed final battle.
Three issues just isn’t enough to tell this story. Each issue is rushed. Narration is the driver. Dialogue and art are almost afterthoughts. So the reader is always being told what’s happening rather than being shown.
The exceptions are the few panels that show Chuck, in the prime of his life, flying with his frail elderly son, Harrison. Harrison dies soaring above the Earth in his father’s arms.
But Harrison as an octogenarian still reacts to his father in the way that he did as a Kindergartener. Chuck’s wife remains dutiful and happy even though Chuck spirals out of control. He gains weight, let’s his hair and beard grow long. He covers up his scarlet and blue unitard with a trench coat.
Chuck has these phases, but his family doesn’t. His wife, Ellie, remains the same person regardless of what her husband is doing and irrespective of her place in time. The same goes Harrison, who did not inherit any of his father’s abilities. As a young man, Harrison shows no sign of jealousy or any type of riff with his father who spends his days saving the planet.
Chuck is, as should be expected, betrayed by Archie. Chuck is stripped of his powers. Archie steals them, but his frail centenarian body, which now resembles more of a rotting corpse than a human being, can’t handle the power and disintegrates.
Chuck powerless and mortal is left alone. His home is sold. His remaining family is estranged. And aliens have invaded.
In the final panel, Chuck dons one of Archie’s battle suits to take on the invasion and fully anticipates his death.
The story needed more issues to explore what happens to Earth when Archie leaves for six years in the early 2030s. There’s one brief panel that shows him in what is presumably Vietnam — a village is burning and Chuck says he’s tired of war.
In the beginning the United States takes Chuck on as an employee. The government pays him a salary, but there is no exploration of how that relationship changes, evolves, and, presumably, dissipates.
All that should have been expected in a story called Never Ending that concludes in just three issues.
- Also, from Dark Horse this week is Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 was released. We’ll be keeping an eye on this series. The story picks up months after the movie Serenity. Jane has left the crew. Zoe is pregnant and hallucinating. What’s left of the Serenity crew is hiding in deep space because there’s price on Mal’s head. The first issue feels like more of a scene setter. The first few panels are devoted to the reaction to the revelation of Miranda and the origin of the Reavers. Then there’s a jump to an alliance ship setting up some conflict, a jump to Serenity to catch-up on the crew. The issue ends with a jump Jayne. There’s no story here. It serves mostly as an epilogue to the film. Hopefully, there will be more of a plot in the issues coming up. 3/5.