It’d be possible to spend an entire review talking about the sheer pointlessness of this book, and the inherent irony of its existence: the fact that a character that was created for the specific purpose of parodying a particular type of story and character is now being used… in exactly the same type of story he was originally created to parody. And DC’s ongoing quest (I think it’s Geoff Johns’ fault) to bring every aspect of the quite-deliberately-out-of-continuity Kingdom Come into the DCU proper is a baffling one, but no part of it has been moreso than the attempt to turn Magog into a viable lead character. The guy is a sheer spoof of the worst excesses of Rob Liefeld, designed to be a fundamentally flawed “hero” whose sole purpose is to show us why we needed Superman after all – just how do you make that work with a straight face?
Still, we shouldn’t solely concern ourselves with such matters – flawed though his conception may be, it’s not impossible for a good comic in its own right to arise from such circumstances. Sadly, though, it hasn’t in this instance. It’s all well and good trying to judge Magog on its own merits, devoid of context – but that still leaves very little of positive note. This simply isn’t very good. The main point it seems to want to make – that superheroes are too concerned with either local threats or cosmic ones to actually want to make a difference to the world’s real problems – has been a staple of comics since the angsty stories of the late ’70s, and as far as the modern era goes you suspect Giffen (locked here in his “serious mode” that seldom produces comics anywhere near as good as when he has his madcap head on) is unlikely to add anything of substance to ground already trodden by the likes of The Authority.
The main problem, though, is that Magog himself simply isn’t at all interesting as a character. Despite any attempt Giffen makes to flesh out his supporting cast and background (and really, this book sets some kind of record for sheer volume of expository first-person narrator captions), his roots come back to haunt him – he’s merely a “grim vigilante” of the sort that we’ve seen thousands of times before. Indeed, there are so many characters running around complaining about the ineffectiveness of all the other superheroes that you wonder how none of them have noticed one-another, and thus stopped complaining. And a subplot involving him training a downtrodden woman so that she can beat up her abusive husband does little to counteract the sheer unlikeability that runs through his narration – particularly when he encounters Alan Scott (rule number one in DC comics – you don’t slag off Alan Scott).
This is simply a flat, unappealing lump of comics. There’s nothing it does particularly badly – aside from taking itself far too seriously – and even Howard Porter’s art isn’t the worst he’s ever turned out, certainly not wanting for energy. Moments here and there – the “You’re not the client” bait and switch – show the inventiveness that Giffen is still able to apply from time to time. But so much about Magog is entirely unoriginal and uninspired that such flashes can’t save it. Far from a wretched book, by any means, but it’s also far from being something that I can imagine anyone ever caring about.