First Impressions – NATIONAL COMICS: ROSE & THORN #1

I think this might be a first, if only because there’s not necessarily going to be a series to follow a first impressions. It’s ROSE & THORN #1.

A few months ago, DC began its “National Comics” imprint. Or if not imprint (because the DC logo is still on the cover) then a project of sorts. Basically, DC would release a one-shot story ostensibly about a character from DC’s backlog of properties, with the hopes that enough support for the character builds to spin them off into a series. The first of these was ETERNITY #1, a reboot of the Golden Age character Kid Eternity. From what I heard it was a well made but unoriginal affair that ended on a cliffhanger. And the worst thing you can do on a one-shot story is end on a cliffhanger when you have no idea if a follow up will ever materialize.

Oh wait. Also, the book had basically the same concept as Pushing Daisies.

Regardless, now we have the re-imagining of another Golden Age concept, Rose and Thorn. Rose Canton was a plant biologist who had developed an evil alternate personality called Thorn. After being exposed to magical sap or some crap, she developed plant powers (making her the maternal grandmother to Poison Ivy), and decided to become a villain. Thorn fought the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) for a while, before an attempt to cure the multiple personalities stopped that. Rose fell in love with and married another Golden Age hero, this time Green Lantern Alan Scott. But then Thorn came back, and Rose was forced to flee to prevent her husband from being killed, later bearing the two’s twin children.

These children would become Jade and Obsidian. But you don’t need to know about them anymore, because they no longer exist in continuity because of the reboot. And now they never will, also because of the reboot turning Alan Scott gay. Yes, I’m still bitter, but I’m learning to cope.

Anyway Rose/Thorn’s story ended with her/their suicide. That about covers everything that’s important and not stupid, so let’s move on.

NATIONAL COMICS: ROSE & THORN #1 introduces us to…Rose Canton (duh), a high school girl recently returned from a mental institution due to mysterious events from her childhood she can’t remember. Presumably no one else knows either, or if they do know they aren’t telling. I’m leaning towards “don’t know” because there’s no scene of her present guardian, her aunt, looking forlorn as if keeping a secret.

Anyway, Rose awakens one morning with no memory of the previous night, and covered in someone else’s blood. She also has a recently applied tattoo of a rose on her back, with the word “Thorn” on it. Symbolism?

I for one applaud the use of a symbolic tramp stamp. Or rather I like this comic’s use of a symbolic tramp stamp. There’s plenty of ways such a thing can and has been used horribly.

Rose goes about her day, dealing with all the tomfooleries she apparently got into as of late, all while calling herself Thorn. She boozed with the popular girls, blatantly made out with the alpha girl’s ex-boyfriend, and somewhere in there managed to hit on her only girl friend at school. But Thorn has been more busy than that. We’re definitely seeing some sinister stuff going on with Thorn, mostly by the aftermath of her escapades. And by the power of modern technology and a “Facelook” (oh copyright laws, how we despise you), Thorn delivers an ultimatum to her erstwhile other half.

Thorn wants to know the truth about what happened to their father. And she’s willing to carve her name (or rather the word “MINE”) in anyone in order to do so.

And she’s now going steady with the aforementioned alpha girl’s ex-boyfriend. Rose seems okay with both of these things. This is how the comic ends. I didn’t want to spoil the ending, but there you go.

I’m torn on this comic. On the one hand, I like the premise of a girl with an evil alternate personality, striving to enact damage control every time she wakes up. It reminds me of Jekyll, that British TV series about a modern descendent of Dr Jekyll, and how he lives with his other half and tries to keep the other away from the one’s married life. On the other hand, this also kind of does the same thing Eternity did, by creating a definite cliffhanger. Mind you this is kind of the point, given that DC wants us to want more Rose & Thorn. And it’s not like we’re left on a cliffhanger in the middle of a tense plot. If there’s never a follow up, we could at least say they tried, and it’s at a decent place narratively. It’s a decent pilot and one I’d love to see more of.

Heaven knows it’s better than the Wonder Woman TV pilot. Egad.

I think this might tie off a trilogy of female-centric comics I’ve introduced. Heck, it has kind of the same tone as Sword of Sorcery, at least where the high school teenager deal is concerned. It’s too bad DC has no visible plans to follow up yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

As for the National Comics series, what do you all think? Should I keep giving my impressions of these things? Should I have given my first impressions on this at all, given its unknown status as a one-shot backdoor pilot? Leave your comments below.

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