‘FARM System’ Comic Review | The work footprint
Have you ever wondered where superheroes come from?
Not the part where they mutate, or get bitten by radioactive bugs, or even stand too close to a gamma bomb, but rather the next part. Do you like how to fight against enemies or work in a team? A dose of spider venom does not grant self-defense skills. And so, unless you’re a Batman with a billion dollars to travel the world and learn martial arts, what’s a kid with fantastic powers supposed to do?
Well, in the new comic from Rich Koslowskiyou join the FARM System.
Inspired by major league baseball farm teams, the FARM (Free Agent Recruit Management) system recruits young superheroes, trains them, and places them on big super teams (for a commission, of course).
It’s an intriguing premise in that the Avengers can’t just post a LinkedIn ad if they need a replacement to replace Hawkeye. It’s also interesting to think about what would happen if, say, the Justice League and the X-Men got into a bidding war for a rookie. And imagine a Type Scott Bora play both sides to get the best contract and commission possible.
There is a lot of room to explore in this idea – How do they find recruits? How do contracts work? How is their work with the professional teams going? — and this comic covers a lot, especially when it comes to the exploitation of these recruits. However, I felt like he was only scratching the surface in parts.
The story covers a few main tracks. There’s the Gymnast, the very first hero recruited by Alexander Ellison into his system despite having no super abilities aside from his determination and willpower. He’s on the line, having failed to hang onto any super team and is now on the wrong side of 40. There’s a brand new recruit, who is the entry point to see the farm in action, with superpowers that are seemingly both awesome and yet undefined. And then there are other perspectives that give Ellison headaches. The Grind disappeared just before he was supposed to start a new contract, which could cost Ellison a fortune.
That’s a lot to cover in 160 pages, and some of them are pretty short. The Grind mystery, in particular, doesn’t seem connected at all to the rest of the book until suddenly it is. The New Kid’s (that’s his name) trip to boot camp doesn’t carry a ton of weight. It all feels very episodic and a bit disjointed, and there are points that feel like they should be parody, but don’t engage with it. For example, a super team is called the Revengers… but it’s also a world where the X-Men and Wolverine exist.
There are also a ton of characters, like Channel who can talk to the dead, and Brixx, who is an analogue of The Thing, and many more. The problem is that with dozens of heroes, most of them receive little more than a cursory mention.
There are also very moving sections here. Diving into the Gymnast’s past and all the sacrifices he made to pursue his dream is heartbreaking. And there’s a short vignette with an older hero named Bullet Prof (not Proof) that really touches you. And the panel layouts are inventive and very cleverly used.
Overall, there are some interesting ideas here, but I don’t think they’re fleshed out enough. If you’re a fan of the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the superhero world, it’s worth checking out.