A mere glance at the cover of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors projects an endless stream of possibilities and “what ifs” into the minds of even the most casual of comic book fans. Like a movie trailer that seems to tell you everything but knows you’ll still beg for more, this high concept gem is well worthy of the recent buzz it’s been receiving.
Again, the cover in many ways says it all - we’re clearly dealing with something akin to the Xavier institute for Gifted Youngsters but for aspiring Super-Villains. This use of a somewhat familiar setting along with a Masterpiece Theatre style introduction quickly orients the reader to the rich new world laid out before them before dropping you right in the middle of the drama. Literally, drama class where our antagonist protagonist Kid Nefarious cackles his best monologue while minding his enunciation and scraping for the punchiest adjectives.
While the comedic tone and character focus is set early on, the book wastes no time in bombarding the reader with scores of new villains and subplots touching off what I feel gives this book potential for real staying power: Universal appeal, plain and simple. It is far too rare that a comic hits the shelves that can challenge and entertain the youngest of readers without talking down to them while at the same time fully engaging adult readers without the use of hollow pop cultural references, sexual innuendo, poop jokes or grannies who can rap. It’s a delicate balance of Pixarian proportions but Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors pulls it off in spades.
While there is a whole lot of story crammed into this first issue it should be no shock to reveal that my favorite part was recess. You don’t have to scratch your head too long to figure out how cool recess at this school could be. Recess is where true colors emerge, cliques form and true baddies take shape, baddies like the Skull Brothers. In a school full of bad guys, the Skull Brothers are the baddest of the bad and they are sooo cool. Picture the Cobra Kai (Karate Kid) being adopted into the Baseball Furies (The Warriors) then possessed by the spirit of Lo Pan (Big Trouble in Little China) with Glen Danzig on vocals... The Skull Brothers are kind of like that - adding a deeper layer of fear and danger to school that knows a thing or two about both. This demonic duo with their dark and mysterious past promise plenty of cool plot threads to come while commanding the school yard scuffle that serves as this issue's main action set piece.
Really and truly this first issue plants many enticing seeds and paints a vivid and exciting backdrop for many stories to come and I for one plan on being there for the ride - even if I have to steal my son's copy.
I could go on but I’ll just cut to the chase here - I highly recommend you pick up Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors for yourself, for a human cub of some relation or for a perfect stranger. It’s hits shelves today via Image Comics and if you’re comic book shop doesn’t keep a decent stock of Image comics on the shelves, well I guess you’ll just have to start insisting that they do.