Alternate history can be a difficult genre. When done well it can lead to some of the most interesting and lasting stories out there, like Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. When done poorly it ends up as a regrettable, forgettable mess, like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. Luckily, the initial issue of Titan Comics’ The Chimera Brigade, amusingly titled Mechanoid Curie, falls into the former category.
Chimera Brigade is set to tell the story of the lead up (and likely the events of) the Second World War, set in a world where superhumans and mad science are a firm, though concerning reality. While super soldiers and skull-faced Nazis are hardly a novel concept, Chimera Brigade pushes story to the forefront rather than bombastic battles and snappy one-liners.
The book follows Irene Curie, daughter of everyone’s favourite irradiated real-life physicist, Marie, as she is smuggled into a secret facility by power-armoured Russians to attend a mysterious superhuman soiree put together by the hypnotist/Nazi Dr. Missbrauch. What ensues is a lot of exposition, a little bit of action, and a bunch of bugs.
To be fair, the amount of talking in this book is going to turn off fans of more energetic titles, but I loved it. All of this grandstanding establishes an intriguing world that feels alarmingly lived in. Characters have their own motivations and allies and reasons to have those, rather than the two dimensional characterizations that can be so common in comic books. While the Russian organization known as We is harboring Irene, readers will definitely understand that while they may be working together, they represent very different nations and ideas.
Furthermore, Stephanie Gess, the artist involved in this book, does a fine job painting a world that is visually interesting and manages to capture the awe-inspiring nature of super humanity while paying homage to the campy stories that inspired everything. Despite the dry, often bleak tone of the book, it’s hard not to smile at all the rivet strewn suits of power armour, the undead stormtroopers, or the big ole’ tiger dude (Appropriately named Tigrefax).
The primary drama proposed in Chimera Brigade seems to be about the histories and alliances of these meta-humans, and the divide between them. Here we have less ‘heroes versus villians’ and more of a clash in ideals between nations and the powered people that claim them as their own. In this war, Chimera Brigade looks like it will be painting a more realistic view on World War 2, though the world itself is fantastical. If this first issue is any indication, then this is a series I’ll stick with for many issues to come.