Welcome to Tranquility #1-4

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Neil Googe
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

When DC Comics announced the revamp of the Wildstorm comics line last year, most of the books from the new line-up were retooled concepts that were already published. The one exception was Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s Welcome to Tranquility, an ongoing series about a retirement village for super-powered individuals. Now that the series is four issues in, Welcome to Tranquility is simultaneously one of the more interesting and frustrating books I’ve read in a while.

In the town of Tranquility, super-beings of all shapes and sizes live together. The one thing is, though, they’re all retired. Pink Bunny runs a diner. Judge Fury is now Mayor Fury. Minxy Millions is losing touch with reality but keeps flying her planes above (and sometimes into) town. When Mister Articulate is murdered in broad daylight, stabbed on his own sword, it’s up to Sheriff Thomasina Lindo to bring the killer to justice—and she’s quite possibly the one true hero that Tranquility still has.

There’s a lot to love about Welcome to Tranquility. Simone has thought the entire idea of a super retirement community through wonderfully, on a number of different levels. This is more than just heroes becoming mayors, or people with x-ray vision working as coroners that never need to cut the corpses open. It’s a genuine examination of what life in a world with super-powers would be like, and all that would entail. The teenaged super-team that rebels against their former wholesome image and goes emo and goth, for instance. Jobs for super-villains being relegated to things like the local cemetery. Gang-banging grandchildren of villains. Even little touches that we’ve seen in different forms before, like a super-speedster teenager’s perception of her mother scolding her, come across as feeling fresh and different than what most superhero books are these days. Welcome to Tranquility in some ways exists in its own little world, where people with powers are called “maxi”s and there’s a very different attitude towards them than in any other book that Wildstorm publishes. Then the second issue features a reference to the Midnighter from The Authority and in some ways a tiny bit of Welcome to Tranquility’s charm is lost as it is briefly relegated to just another cog in a larger machine, robbing Tranquility of its uniqueness. In many ways, to trot out an old cliché, the town of Tranquility is a character in its own right, and by far the most interesting one of the comic.

Unfortunately, that’s also the frustrating thing about Welcome to Tranquility. The town itself as a setting stands out as being really fresh and different (despite the fact that towns of superpowered people have been done before) thanks to Simone’s careful crafting of the social dynamic, but that same amount of care and meticulous creation doesn’t feel like it’s been extended to the actual cast of the book. Thomasina appears to be set up as our main character, for instance, but at the end of four issues it feels like we barely know anything about her. We’re presented with facts about her life here and there, but you don’t ever get a real feel for her other than she works hard at her job and is well-respected. She and just about everyone else in the comic don’t come across as possessing much depth, and after four installments that’s something we should start seeing. The closest Welcome to Tranquility seems to come in that regard is the relationship between Zeke from the the cemetery and the depowered Maximum Man, with the subtle hints that one of them is manipulating the other in order to keep their status quo solid. In the end, it’s the big weakness so far with Welcome to Tranquility; the town is fantastic, the concept is fun, and the plot of the first storyline is solid. (I could be wrong but I think Simone’s also planted enough clues at this point to solve the murder mystery, but with two issues to go we’ll see if there’s another twist waiting.) In terms of writing, while all of those elements grab my attention, the lack of complex characterization is what threatens to lose it.

Googe’s art was new to me with Welcome to Tranquility, but it’s something that I’ll definitely remember. Starting with the basics, he’s got a fine sense of anatomy, able to not only draw lots of different looking realistic characters but ones that genuinely look older. While that alone would be a good thing, it’s Googe’s page layouts and his ability to mimic creations of older times that stands out. His page borders are beautiful, from lines of apples moving across a page with two neighbors fighting over the ownership of said fruit, to Ajita’s MP3 player headphones lining a panel border as she jogs across town, each one adds a little extra flair and interest to the page without coming across as distracting. Also of interest is Googe’s creation of various pieces of culture that exist in the world of Welcome to Tranquility. From old-time comic strips and trading cards to diner menus and children’s television line-ups, Googe makes all of Simone’s ideas seem almost like they’re actual discoveries that the two came across in the creation of the book. It’s a smart touch to help understand exactly what we’re wading into, and Googe pulls it off perfectly.

Even with the problems over thin characterization, there’s a lot to recommend Welcome to Tranquility. It’s the most inventive book published by Wildstorm, full of great ideas and beautiful art. It’s just a little aggravating that it doesn’t seem to come together one hundred percent, because at times it seems like it’s almost there. After four months, though, I’m still willing to give it chance after chance. It may be an imperfect book, but it’s got more pieces of excitement and interest embedded into its pages than the majority of books hitting stands right now. You definitely owe it to yourself to take a look.

4 comments to Welcome to Tranquility #1-4

  • […] Greg McElhatton reviews the first four issues of Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s superhero-retirees murder mystery, Welcome to Tranquility. […]

  • […] the “I agree” front, Greg McElhatton takes a look at the first four issues of Welcome to Tranquility (Wildstorm) and notices one weakness that threatens to undermine the book’s other strengths: […]

  • Fred Dukes

    The setup sounds a lot like Fables from the way you describe it. The first arc of Fables also started with a murder mystery. How do the two books compare so far?

  • One big difference between the two is that with Fables it’s in part about a society that’s hidden; with Tranquility it’s a part of the world that everyone knows about, with many of the people there having been celebrities in the past.

    In some ways it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but I think that at this stage I’d enjoyed Fables a little more because (perhaps due to Willingham being able to play off their storybook character status that gives readers extra knowledge about them) the characters felt a little more developed. But they’re both good books in their own right, easily.