Tradewaiter: The Mighty Volumes 1 and 2

If you were asked to name a comic which debuted in 2009 and starred an ersatz Superman who isn’t as great a hero as people though, odd are you’d think of “Irredeemable,” Mark Waid’s popular book from BOOM! Studios. I think of “The Mighty”, a DC book with a similar premise, but which was a tighter, shorter story which felt better planned. It lasted twelve issues and while it was collected into two volumes, it’s really one large story. Hence, both books are being reviewed at the same time in this Tradewaiter twofer! And there are Mighty Spoilers.

Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne
Illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg and Chris Samnee

1952. Atomic testing in the South Pacific creates Alpha One, the world’s first – and only super-hero.

Now. Nearly sixty years later, Alpha One, side by side with Section Omega, a police force devoted exclusively to assisting Earth’s mightiest hero, has become the most powerful force for good in the world. When Lieutenant Gabriel Cole assumes leadership of Secion Omega due to the sudden murder of his predecessor, he finds himself working shoulder to shoulder with the same hero who saved his life as a child. It should be a dream come true. But friendship with Alpha One comes with a price. Cole comes to realize that while nobody knows the man beneath the iconic “A”-emblazoned uniform – working closely with him has made demands on his life he never expected, envisioned, or wanted!
Volume One: $17.99 / 144 pages
Volume Two: $17.99 / 144 pages

The story starts as a basic murder mystery, with Cole partnering with Alpha One to investigate the crime along with a handful of other common problems. Alpha One begins to depart from the standard operating Superman around issue four, as Cole gets closer to him and begins to see the man behind the superman. As he digs deeper into his new job, he finds out the truth not just behind his boss’s murder, but the deaths of all the men who held the position before him. Alpha One is revealed to be an alien exile, a prisoner whose rocket crash landed on Earth during the Revolutionary War. He was cast out from his own planet because of his Nazi-like ideas about how to “fix” problems with his society. After landing on Earth, he secretly continued his dream on his adopted homeworld while simletaniously earning the population’s trust as a hero. His experiments grant Cole powers similar to Alpha’s, which allows Cole to stop him and save the world.

For a plot which spans the globe – and occasionally beyond – “The Mighty” is a surprisingly tight read. The number of named characters can almost be counted on your fingers. Tomasi and Champagne take a story which could easily have been a spanning epic and instead make it a focused story on Cole’s character. This isn’t a bad thing, as Cole is wonderfully developed, and the supporting cast still get enough attention to feel at least two-dimensional. The dialogue is mostly natural-sounding, with numerous instances of movie references. Wisely, the writers chose movies which are actually classic (Star Trek II, Airplane!, Magnificent Seven) instead of whatever was in theaters when the issues came out. The trouble with mystery comics, though, is how they hinge on their ending. A bad twist and bad ending can undo all the great chapters told previously.

Despite the great talent on display from Tomasi and Champange, though, the plot doesn’t withstand close scrutiny. Cole becomes wise to Alpha One’s sinster actions because Alpha One causes disasters to hide evidence of his kidnapping. Then he creates more later to drop off the bodies. Why not just abduct homeless people, hikers, or just anybody? People go missing all the time, and disappearacnes aren’t the kind of thing Section Omega would investigate. Why return the bodies instead of dropping them off in the ocean? Or on the moon? Speaking of the moon, Alpha One is clearly shown surviving in space with no assistance, but is defeated by depriving him of Oxygen. How does that make sense? Ulimately, these errors aren’t just the fault of Tomasi or Champagne, but also of Scott Nybakken, their editor. Isn’t part of his job to maintain consistancy across the story? For a series which lasted only twelve issues, a little more effor should’ve been devoted to fully finish the plot.

Nearly every issue ends on some kind of cliffhanger, usually a tremendous one in the midst of some dramatic action. Nevertheless, they read almost seamlessly as a collected whole. Virtually no action or dialogue gets repeated, and any timeskip is short and feels appropriate. “The Mighty” made for a great read in serial installments, but the smooth transitions between chapters is proof Tomasi and Champagne had tradewaiters in mind when they were writing.

The art, by Snejbjerg for the first four issues and Samnee for the other eight, was a perfect match for the concepts. Alpha One is rendered with a classic feel, square jaw and all. Numerous iconic scenes from the Superman mythos are reproduced with slight differences which add to the slightly-off nature of Alpha One himself. Both artists are masters of expressions, able to show subtle emotions with clarity. Their action scenes are clear and easy to understand, but fall short of being dynamic. The end result is art which gets across the main idea, but doesn’t hold attention for too long.

Neither book includes extras of any kind, and each trade costs the same as the sum of the original $2.99 issues.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – It might be worth your money, but browse it first.

About The AuthorDrew BradleyDrew Bradley is a long time comic reader whose contributions to Multiversity include the Minding MIND MGMT, Small Press Spotlight columns, and the discontinued Tradewaiter. He also tackles projects like Lettering Week and Variant Coverage. Feel free to email him about these things, or any other comic related topic.

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