“I remember the exact moment I felt old,” recalls Pigeon Pete in the issue’s opening flashback. Pete himself is depicted as lean and youthful in this intro- a far cry from the scruffy, pudgy man we’ve come to know in the last three issues.
In the first panel, he’s perched atop a building across from a Natural History Museum, preparing to steal a faberge egg with the help of his pigeons. It’s a goofy sort of scenario straight out of the Sixties, the Silver Age of comics, that represents a more innocent time in the world of Minor Threats. However, as the page goes on and Pigeon Pete makes his way through the museum, we see the end of one era and the beginning of another. A trail of blood leads to the exhibit that Pete plans on plundering, and it feels unsettlingly alien in this silly, old-fashioned heist. In the final panel, Pete looks in horror upon the gruesome handiwork of a new breed of criminal: the faberge has been removed from its casing and planted in the brain matter of a dead security guard, who wears a sign reading “free to a good owner”.
In this one page, we see the beginning of the end for a status quo- the violent change set in motion by the Stickman that serves as a catalyst for this entire series.
I don’t normally spend this time focusing on a single moment, let alone a page when writing reviews, but this one in particular just feels like the perfect encapsulation of what the creative team is cooking with this book. Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt have crafted this concentrated little tragedy about one man’s life being tossed upside down, and Scott Hepburn brings it to life in a way that’s visually haunting and rich in detail.
Of course, the majority of the story takes place in the present, where the Stickman explains his motives for killing Kid Dusk and leading the Insomniac to wipe out most of the villains in the Trophy Room Club. This is where we really see Stickman as the Joker to Insomniac’s Batman stand-in, as he describes his relationship with his nemesis in romantic terms. He claims that he took out most of Insomniac’s rogues gallery because he “[takes] monogamy very seriously,” which feels a lot like how different iterations of the Joker treat the Batman/Joker dynamic.
Above all, the Stickman’s campaign of carnage is about simplifying things between him and the Insomniac, which is a very fitting goal for a man themed after the most stripped-down visual representation of the human form (a stick figure). Also, Stickman’s insistence on restoring things to the way they used to be, feels like a meta poke at entitled comic book fans who are afraid of change. It feeds into that Grant Morrison-esque “comic book about comic books” vibe that Minor Threats has been giving off since the very start.
“Change” is certainly the thematic core of this issue, as it serves as the conclusion for the series’ first storyline. This issue is an emotional roller coaster full of moments that will make you pump your fist in excitement or break your heart, and each one of them ensures that nothing is going to be the same going forward. Questions are both answered and raised as this chapter comes to a close, and it all feels immensely satisfying in the way it unfolds.
Hepburn’s art is stunning, as there’s always some new little detail to discover every time you look at it. In this issue, the crew visits the Dream Cavern (the Insomniac’s Batcave,) and it’s as meticulously crafted as you would hope for, from its matching set of vehicles to bizarre display of “trophies” from various criminals. Mushroom-covered walls, glowing crystals, and gigantic aquariums teeming with life give the Dream Cavern that extra imaginative flair to set it apart from the iconic lair that inspired it.
That’s probably the most underrated thing that Minor Threats does: create obvious homages to different characters and scenarios from existing superhero comics while giving them enough of a refresh that they have their own sense of identity. The Insomniac isn’t just “What if Batman was a dick?” but rather a look at what it would be like if a superhero shared the narcissistic traits of their nemesis and decided that the world was divided into people who matter and people who don’t. There’s a sort of beautiful irony that he’s in a story where the main characters are the people he’d put in the latter category. In the end, the figureheads of justice and dastardliness aren’t the kind of people who change the world. That honor belongs to those dismissed as “minor threats”.