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DV8: Neighborhood Threat
Warren Ellis
Titan paperback £12.99

review by Rob Marshall

This comics' collection about poor multiethnic orphans, genetically modified into a superhero team, features characters created by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and J. Scott Campbell as a spinoff from the Gen-13 series, but this sequence (originally published in 1997-8 by Wildstorm) is penned by Warren Ellis, supported by a team of artists led by Humberto Ramos (pencils) and Sal Regia (inks).
   As heroes, the Deviants are more miscreants than mavericks, formed as a wrecking crew by (probably) mad scientists, then whisked away for a perverse experiment in social integration by former den-mother Ivana when their corporate masters want this gang of basket case GM rejects swept under the proverbial carpet. The nominal leader is psionic Threshold, aided by his psychic sister Bliss. Then there's dog-boy Evo, density-changer Sublime, emotional vampire Powerhaus, heat-absorbing Frostbite, and Copycat the mind controller with split personality syndrome.
   Although they are sent on missions to snatch an extraterrestrial from the CIA, and destroy the desert hideout of a rival inbred mutant cult, the Deviants are presented as little more than another street gang of half-psychotic young hooligans, albeit gifted with fantastic X-File style powers that give them an edge in the rumble stakes. Consequently, these supposed heroes spend as much time bickering and fighting each other as they do bonding as a group, sorting out the problems that Ivana sets for them, or even facing up to their personal responsibilities.
   In the introductory text, Ellis claims that the inspiration for the Deviants came from Larry Clark's controversial movie Kids (1995). Here though, there are simply too many crass jokes about underage sex, incest, drug addiction and sociopathic behaviour for sensible comparison to that hard-hitting drama about the dismal life of New York teens. And unfortunately, the manga styled artwork (exaggerated physicality, caricatured expressions) detracts from any serious points the various narratives have to offer. The effectiveness of paranoiac mind games and unsubtle attempts to shock the reader with grisly scenes of carnage and bloodlust are undermined by this cartoon affect.
   Perhaps the most intriguing character here is one-eyed Sideways Bob, the security guard at the Deviants' penthouse base in Manhattan. He seems like a cross between a redneck Hannibal Lecter and Joe Spinell's serial killer character in Maniac (1980), and is happy to tell amusingly grotesque horror stories that intimidate the youngsters.

Related item:
tZ  Mutants Season - article on mutants in SF and comics, by David Sivier

DV8: Neighborhood Threat
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