Top 10, Vol. 1-2
by Alan Moore, Gene
Ha, Zander Cannon
(America's Best, 2001)

Alan Moore, author of The Watchmen and Swamp Thing, tackles an interesting question: What would happen if there were a police force made up entirely of superheroes? And what if the city they guarded was populated solely by people with superpowers?

The answer looks something like Top 10, the police station in futuristic Neopolis, where everyone, even animals, has powers of every stripe and type. No need for secret identities in a society where pizza boys can levitate and cats can declare nuclear war on mice. It's a very touching tribute to an older era of character-driven comics, accompanied by detailed, old-school art that draws the eye to every fine detail.

The premise is simple enough: create a cast of closely knit, oddball characters in the Steven Boccho police drama TV series mold, something rather similar to Hill Street Blues. Give them (mostly) real-world problems to deal with in a world full of drunken Godzillas and prostitutes who can read minds. Add some engaging murder mysteries involving serial killers for them to solve and stir into a finely tuned and, for once, rather lighthearted and engaging drama by a master storyteller.

Almost all the lead actors get equal screen time, which gives Moore plenty of room to create clear, understandable and empathetic characters. Each one is well-defined, with very real problems and heartbreaks. Moore creates as wide a spread of people as possible, from a talking dog of a sergeant to an openly lesbian detective to a practicing Satanist. Moore's particular brand of magic, where he infuses the everyday and the mundane with something imaginative, is done with such perfection here that the seams between the ordinary and the fantastic are all but invisible.

The plots are character driven and the situations as suspenseful as they come. The dialogue sparkles with Moore's usual brand of wit and insight. The massive city of Neopolis, whose details could easily overwhelm the eye, is beautifully rendered by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon so that the complicated nature of the city comes to life, so neatly laid out and yet so packed with information that it can take some time to sort out what's going on in each panel. Rather than being frustrating, the parsing out of each joke (such as counting the number of heroes -- Plastic Man, Elongated Man, etc. -- who are "rubbernecking" at the scene of an accident) is actually a pleasantly escapist way to spend an hour.

Alan Moore can do police drama. Alan Moore can do fun. Alan Moore can work magic like no other writer, and anyone who wants a return to good old-fashioned superhero comics written by one who can both revisit and extend the form at the same time can check out the folks at Precinct 10 for a good time. Highly recommended.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 13 March 2004

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