Welcome to the Working Week

by Oswalt Patton, Christian Alamy,
John Kalisz, J.D. Mettler
(DC Comics, 2003)

Reading fan-fiction is always an interesting experience. Where it gets most tedious is when a fan makes the all-too-common gesture of writing themselves into the fiction. It's a sweet gesture, one we're all human enough to want; however, such a gesture usually ends up being abortive, as narcissism can sink the story. The more obvious the connection, the more the story becomes about the writer and less about the characters. Which, in the end, makes it not a superhero story at all. This is especially true when you're dealing with a character whose name -- Marlus Randon -- would sound made-up as all get-out, if the amazingly similar-sounding name of the actual writer, Oswalt Patton, didn't sound almost completely made-up as well (or maybe his parents were comic book fans shooting for "Oswald," as in Oswald Cobblepot).

That JLA: Welcome to the Working Week is clearly a case of self-oriented fan-fiction is quite clear from the beginning. That it's a nice, fun read and a job quite well done is also apparent; the only real shame being that it wasn't a two-or even three-part miniseries. And that is saying something in a time when more graphic novels than not aren't worth even a glance, let alone a full read, let alone one volume of any series at all.

WTTWW opens with a major fan wet dream being realized. No, not alien invasion. Or, not just an alien invasion, but a chance to see what the moon-based JLA Watchtower looks like after your town is transported to it during an alien invasion and you "accidentally" get left behind when the whole town is relocated! Oswalt sticks to familiar pulp-based fan territory, and sticking to what he -- and we -- know best is a good start to an engaging little tale about a young man whose monthly fanzine chronicling the events of his superheroes masks a greater pain. It's not all fun and games in Patton's life: he admires the heroes he writes about but doesn't know, really, if they're unfeeling, godlike beings or real people. The well-timed contrivance of his unexpected arrival in the JLA Watchtower gives him the opportunity to learn everything he's ever wanted to know, as he lurks unseen behind high-tech machinery and bad-guy museum pieces while enjoying a bird's-eye view of the heroes he's only ever second-guessed.

The character interpretations are more on the mark than most experienced writers ever manage to achieve. If WTTWW suffers from anything, it's that it's so bursting with ideas that it can hardly contain them all in one volume. So intent is Oswalt with his imagery and timing that each page is full to the brim with ideas. The dialogue is sharp and thoughtful. Oswalt is funny but serious, and his nuances and touches are some of the best. It actually does manage to capture, in the very limited space given to work with, the working week, the big picture, of the heroes he's been writing about.

The artwork is as rich in detail as it is fantastic, well-worth the effort of a second-read through just to have another look, though people look a bit younger than they should.

The ending provides the usual too-neat resolution but it matches the story's energy and insight quite well. WTTWW doesn't fail in its premise because it never promises to be more than what it is. The freedom of movement gained from such a gesture allows Oswalt to take his story wherever he wants it to go, and the result is a well-told little masterpiece whose self-indulgence is no greater than that of the person actually reading it.

In short, it's probably the same kind of story you'd come up with, given a blank pad and the opportunity to produce a script for your favorite heroes, which makes it easier to get into with every turn of the page. Highly recommended.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 3 July 2004