Welcome To Tranquility Books One and Two, collecting issues #1–12 by Gail Simone and Neil Googe
I picked up these two trade paperbacks in the Gosh! half-price sale, but even then they were rather expensive – the full price for a single trade would have been £14.50 ($20), which is a lot for six comics. Fortunately, the quality of the story and art mean that I think I got myself a bargain.
The Tranquility of the title is a fictional town in California (the book is set within the Wildstorm universe) that is a place for retired superheroes and supervillains (and their families) – this is a brilliant setting for a comic book series, because it allows Simone to play with so many different aspects of the genre, from the present day to all the different sorts of comics in the past, as well as playing on heritage and history of characters that are familiar without being copies. Simone also creates a wonderful collection of fascinating characters, with perhaps the best of them the star of the show: Sheriff ‘Tommy’ Lindo, a smart young black woman, the granddaughter of the superhero Black Glider, who has to deal with the murder of Mr Articulate (which starts the plot of the book rolling), with a camera crew in tow. The story involves the secret of Tranquility, the effects of the past and things gone wrong, and it is really well constructed. It is also warm and funny, with some great dialogue (‘Remember banter, Maximum Man? It’s all Brit-speak and violent one-liners now.’) and some really nice evocations of older comics and Saturday cartoons (I would love to see The Tranquiliteens!).
The story continues into the second book with something that affects the whole town, but also includes lots of back-up stories executed in the style of older comics (with some cool guest artists, such as Jason Pearson and ChrisCross). The art in the bulk of the books is provided by Googe, who does a really good job – I like his angular style, with a cartoony line and an individuality to all his characters that is refreshing in comic books. Also, he does an amazing job with the different art styles for the various historical pieces that are dotted throughout the book, giving a real sense of texture to the world that Simone has created: the Minxy Millions strip, the Maxi Mature Illustrated Album, even the Pink Bunny calendar or the trading stamp club book pages. It fills and enriches the story, almost giving it a three-dimensionality that makes the book even better.
I really liked this book; I’m very partial to books that are based in the superhero comics but then use that as a stepping stone for different stories, with the superpowered characters dressed in (relatively) normal clothes and the superhero element is just background and texture. In this book, the abilities are such a natural part of the world that it’s not important, which is an aspect I enjoyed. Simone has done a great job of creating a very interesting book, making it clever, intimate, exciting, sexy, funny and absorbing, and I’m glad the book is getting another chance with a new mini-series, because this a great little book with a lot of potential (even if ‘Tranquility’ is spelled wrong – what is the trouble with American English and double-ells?).