By Zack Quaintance — Since its start, Electric Warriors has had one of the most interesting concept of any DC comic in recent memory. A six-issue miniseries, this book is set in a future timeline called the Cosmic Dark Age, which takes place after Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster, which eradicated civilized society on Earth and gave rise to characters like O.M.A.C and Kamandi. This time period is, essentially, a bridge between that age and the far more utopian future belonging to the Legion of Superheroes. In Electric Warriors, planets no longer war with each other...instead they send representatives—the titular Electric Warriors—to battle in tournaments organized by the Gil’dishpan aliens that settle militaristic conflicts by proxy. As an extra (and poignant wrinkle) Earth is the only planet with two champions—human and anamorphic—because its population, as usual, can’t get along.
On the surface, the entire system seems like a better one than actually going to war. In Electric Warriors #4, however, the plot picks up on a cliffhanger leftover from Electric Warriors #3, and we start to see what that story implied—that the logistical workings of this battle system are far more sinister than the surface representations of them imply. Essentially, the organizers of the peaceful system are taking the fallen and butchering their bodies for amusement at drunken parties for the galaxy’s elite.
This plot concept was hinted at in #3 and is fleshed out further here in Electric Warriors #4, and I absolutely love it as a smart bit of misdirection. On its surface, this miniseries looked to be another mediation on Earth not being able to find unified peace, with a question about whether violence for some negates the luxury of peace for the vast majority...and now it pivots every so slightly to become a treatise on class warfare, implying as it does that forever war is waged for benefit to and amusement of the .1 percent. It is, in other words, never the hands of the truly privileged that end up with a society’s blood on them, no matter the system.
It all makes for a compelling comic, one that reads exceedingly well in monthly issues. In addition to these larger overarching themes, writer Steve Orlando is spinning a rich narrative here, complete with characters keeping secrets from each other, characters having affairs, and a gentle union between characters to solve a mystery, a mystery we as an audience know the answer to (Firestorm is the Lord Preceptor). This is Orlando telling his best superhero story (with the possible exception of his fill-in run on Wonder Woman) since his breakout work on Midnighter a few years back, and he’s armed with the absolutely stunning creative team of imaginative artist Travel Foreman and colorist Hi-Fi.
The last bit I’ll say—without tipping into spoiler territory—is that this issue features a surprising death, a true rarity during an era of superhero comics where market forces and corporate interests make so many plot twists impermanent and telegraphed months before they occur. This book being set in a relatively unexplored era with all-new characters gives it liberties that feel utterly refreshing. It’s not to be missed.
Overall: With its fourth issue, Electric Warriors remains one of DC’s best comics. This issue packs a surprising death, more insight into what’s really happening with the story, and a deepening of the already rich dynamics between characters. In an era where superhero comics can feel staid and predictable, Electric Warriors is anything but. 9.6/10
Electric Warriors #4
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.