After WATCHMEN shattered all the barriers of how human superheroes could actually be in comics, all bets were off. In the past two decades, we’ve seen super beings be all things to all people, in a way.
So it’s not exactly groundbreaking that WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY envisions retired superheroes living in a California town. That’s not what makes it so intriguing; what’s so fun about it is writer Gail Simone’s effortless way of making superheroics seem so normal and so interesting at the same time. She’s a veteran of the genre --- check out her great work in Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey and The Atom for wonderful proof --- and here she creates a world within a comic book world.
In WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY, Tranquility, California, is home to a vast collection of empowered beings, known as “Maxis,” who relive their glory days. Some old rivalries and bitternesses still survive, though, a fact that rears its ugly head with the murder of a longtime hero, Mr. Articulate. Mr. Articulate is a bit of a dandy, and a fine and proper gentleman. He has a slightly complicated relationship with the local sheriff, Thomasina Lindo. Sheriff Lindo makes it her mission to solve the crime, which occurs during a huge brawl at a lunchtime eatery.
WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY is set in a comic book universe (that is to say, it isn’t as firmly entrenched in the “real” world as, say, WATCHMEN), but it makes it known that superheroes are not the perfect ideals carved out in traditional comics. As a publication of Wildstorm, an imprint of DC Comics, the book is part of a larger universe, and it makes reference to it in the form of mentions of current Wildstorm heroes.
There’s no need to be a regular reader of Wildstorm books, or even acquainted with them at all, but those who are will get the references the book makes. Without that knowledge, though, new readers can still enjoy it. Simone does a nice job of balancing humor and straightforward mystery, and that’s all anyone picking up the book really needs to know to get hooked.
Artist Neil Googe is a find as well. He’s a relative newcomer, and seeing him paired with Simone here is a treat. He has a straight, clean style that’s light on background details but is so crisp and clear that it enhances the storytelling of the book.
A second volume collecting several issues of Welcome to Tranquility has also been published, so readers who like this book can find more. In addition, Simone has indicated she will continue the series in six-issue increments (each trade paperback collection contains six issues). It will be interesting to see where Simone takes Welcome to Tranquility in the future. With her keen eye for human and superhuman interaction, and the genuine warmth and spirit that shine through in her writing, this could be a series that grows and grows for a long time to come.
Reviewed by John Hogan on January 24, 2011
Welcome to Tranquility