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The Last Whiz Kids Story

When we left my new friend Pedro Angosto, he’d just launched Big Bang Adventures #8, KNIGHTS OF JUSTICE, a 52-page monster epic featuring the Big Bang Universe’s heroes of the same name, of its (meta)fictional Golden Age. Since I reviewed that comic, and then interviewed the Big Bang creative team, my new friend has not been idle and today we’re here to look at Pedro’s latest novel-length adventure in Big Bang Adventures #14, THE LAST WHIZ KIDS STORY!

The Whiz Kids being, of course, the Big Bang Universe’s answer to the Teen Titans, and like those sidekicks, the Kids have their own deep history complete with team breakups, roster changes and all of the attendant drama that comes with hormones and heroics.

Backing up a minute, for added context — I mentioned in my review of KNIGHTS OF JUSTICE that while I had been aware of Big Bang Comics since it’s early-90s inception, I’d never really read their comics before. Having entered my middle age long enough ago to have become comfortable with the fact, I now find myself drawn more and more to the comics and styles I overlooked in my youth. Big Bang’s stuff is among those that has charmed me, in no small part due to the sheer scrappiness of the publisher that just won’t quit.

Since discovery I have been exploring their comics in the way I would have, had they been an actual publisher with actual Golden, Silver, Bronze Age history at the time of my entry into comics readership, the early 80s. Namely, with random grabs from various points in their history, just as I might have encountered them in yard sale boxes or back issue bins. I’ve been able to follow along and I am enticed to learn more and piece things together better.

Since reading and thoroughly enjoying KNIGHTS OF JUSTICE, I grabbed a couple of recent digital issues, then an old copy of #1 from the 90s Caliber series, and a couple print-on-demand comics from IndyPlanet (National Guardians is aces too!). There was little rhyme or reason to my initial testing of the waters, which means the history is unfolding to me in this gloriously messy, chaotic fashion - exactly like Marvel and DC’s lore revealed itself to me, beginning forty years ago. It’s been like recapturing a piece of childhood, experiencing some of that wonder I felt as a kid, realizing I had found something that made my blood run hot! The excitement in understanding that there was more people like me in the world, who liked this!

I continue to learn everything I need to know about the House of Carlson though reading the stories. In this one we have Galahad, now-grown former ‘Kid Galahad’, former kid sidekick to the Knight Watchman — finding the murdered body of a superhero. This incites Galahad’s quest for the truth and along the way he must reassemble the team that has been a part of his life since he became a kid hero — the Whiz Kids!

This is a ‘putting the band back together’ story, and those are as much about how everyone has changed and grown as they are about how good it is to reunite. Yet this is a coming-of-age story about Galahad coming into his post-sidekick manhood and reaching that stage of not needing childhood friends any longer. It makes the reunion more impactful, like making a choice to be friends with someone now, that you used to have to be friends with then because your Moms were tight.

It seems we’re also in a Bronze Age era for Big Bang’ continuity in this period, beginning a little Watchmen-style, with the murder of a superhero. In this case the hero is Mr ?, the Big Bang Universe’s answer to the Question (or Rorschach, if you prefer). One of the charms of an homage-inspired universe is that they can use character shortcuts — we understand from the overcoat, fedora and white face mask emblazoned with a question mark, that this is a street-level investigator of crime and conspiracy. Couldn’t be anything but.

That it is his murder that inspires subsequent events is an interesting inversion of the Watchmen parallel.

Like Batman’s Robin, who he unashamedly counts as inspiration, Galahad is appearing more and more to me as a connective tissue character with ties throughout the Big Bang Universe. He has history with Mr ? and finds the body.

Another digression — I love the detail of a rooftop pigeon coop. Having been introduced to the concept of the everyday Queens-rooftop pigeon fancier, this was a particularly nice touch for the Mr ? character, who being dead gets little air time. The coop also becomes an early plot detail and opportunity to demonstrate Galahad’s detective skills. From that clue something enormous begins to unfold and Galahad is suddenly ambushed by a pair of terrifying new opponents! In the aftermath of a resounding defeat, Galahad comes out of the encounter tempered and renewed.

He sets out to gather a team of his friends — young adults who have been friends and comrades-in-arms since childhood. Galahad must rebuild the Whiz Kids to take on this great new evil the only way they can — together. They come together older, wiser and damaged in a very self-aware Bronze Age way, demonstrating the cumulative toll of super-heroism on body and mind. They have history, a little of which is touched on in the story, and more of which is only hinted at. I am sure I will learn a great deal more of it as I read further back into the Big Bang history and judging from how this comics ends, in future issues as well!

Pedro Angosto knows his comics and boy, he loves them! His passion for comics comes across in every caption and line of dialogue. He set out to write a love letter to the New Teen Titans that he and I fell in love with in the 1980s, and in doing so Pedro also found time to send a small Valentine’s card to the Teen Titans of the swinging sixties, and further acknowledging that ‘growing up super’ has gotta be weird as anything and hard as hell.

In KNIGHTS OF JUSTICE Pedro told a Justice Society-type tale replete with a trip to a mythological Underworld and a goddess of love; here in THE LAST WHIZ KIDS STORY we have young heroes coming back together — older, wiser and bearing the scars of experience.

Jose Santamaria’s art is an excellent pairing for this story, with character designs for the older Whiz Kids. Both the new Galahad and the Sword of Allah character designs are hands-down winners! No mean feat in an area where just about everything has already been done before.

Santamaria’s artwork is light and pleasant, with expressive faces and body acting, and great action, continuing that particular Big Bang feel of indy crossed with classic. And he’s given a lot to do, with action and drama both in present moment and in flashback. Lovely color work brings it all together — while I love good black-and-white, I’m ultimately a sucker for color comics and I have been noticing more lately when it’s good, effective coloring, as we have here.

With the ‘can do’ and ‘never die’ spirit best exemplified by the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics they remain inspired by, Big Bang continues to forward their universe. Publisher Gary Carlson’s vision for Big Bang has always been respectful homage to the major superhero universes of earlier times and his Universe has survived long enough to generate history and lore uniquely its own. While continuing to incorporate styles and traditions from subsequent eras, Big Bang has grown into a whole complex-yet-so-simple thing.

I enjoyed Big Bang Adventures #14, THE LAST WHIZ KIDS STORY, and I hope you’ll give it a try. Honestly, the best way to do that would be to visit IndyPlanet and put together a small order, a handful of comics with a couple Big Bangs in there, maybe something from Oniric Comics Group, something from Standard Comics thrown in. Get a sampling of a few things, maximize your shipping cost, and enjoy! Or save even more and buy digital download, read on your tablet or phone!

Until next time, friends — as Dr. Seuss once said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Max Cage, for Here We Are Now, Entertain Us and The Wednesday Pull List

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