In Alter Ego, a 1980s mini-series takes on the heroes of the golden age of comic as this comic book world within a comic book world unravels. When our protagonist, Rob, dawns the simple eye mask, he finds himself transformed into the famous Alter Ego from the 1940s. He is instantaneously transported through time and dimension to an alternative Earth where classic superheroes fight against the forces of the wicked Crimson Claw.
When Rob discovers a new comic book store in his neighborhood, he canít resist seeing what great comics they have from the 1940s. All his favorite titles can be found, and a new one of sorts that heís never heard of: Alter Ego. Upon insistence of the owner, Rob takes the Alter Ego comics home to read. Before he can return the series, the comic book store is destroyed and the owner missing. Things go from weird to worse when, flipping through Alter Ego, Rob finds a mask. No sooner is the mask on his face than he finds himself in full Alter Ego garb, fighting Hitler and a bunch of Nazis, trying to save his fellow superheroes. The storyline deals with the struggles that Rob, a high school boy, must contend with both internally and externally as both himself and a super-hero.
As comic books go, this graphic novel deviates little but can still be fun. The 1980s depiction of the 1940s draws great irony from the decade in which the Cold War started and to within a decade of when the Cold War would end. So when the Crimson Claw (draw your own conclusions on who this could represent) goes as far to detonate nuclear weapons, the underlying commentary is well felt.
Like many comic book series from the 1980s, Alter Ego uses bright colors in its art. Whatís more, Roy Thomas and Ron Harris go to some lengths to really mimic the Golden Age style when Alter Ego enters into the past. The best panels of the series comes in the fourth part, when Robís grandfather picks up the Alter Ego comic book to find that he has entered the realm of the surreal. The grandfather stares horrified into pages that feature him reading the exact comic book that he is reading. But of course, the gag doesnít stop there; one can make out, within the comic panel that the grandfather is reading, another representation of the grandfather reading a comic book and so on and so forth. Nothing like a time-travelling crime fighter in parallel comic dimension to create a paradox.
Roy Thomas presents readers with an extensive introduction discussing the origins of Alter Ego, while Ron Harris ties up the loose ends with an afterword discussing artistic goals and influences. Fans are also treated to a three-page sketchbook of half a dozen panels.
Alter Ego captures the optimistic, almost happy-go-lucky, mood of Golden Age comic books while at the same time illuminating the more complex personalities to emerge from the 1980s comic books. Overall a decent tale, this graphic novel can be a great dose of nostalgia for those wishing to enjoy some older material.