The Cold War has brought the world to the brink of annihilation. In a ploy to garner wealth, a businessman named Itch is forcing a fleet of American ships to battle it out with Soviet vessels to incite panic. With the world panicking, flashes of light appear in the sky that put much of the population into a heavy trance. Suddenly, the first supermen appear, leaving the world even more reeling than before.
Rick Veitch's the One is a biting and macabre allegory of both the Cold War and the idea of superheroes in that chaotic environment.
For those who don't know, this IDW publishing of the comic is actually a reprint from 1985, with Marvel being the original publisher. This was before even Watchmen, but One is not nearly as well remembered.
It hits many of the same beats as Watchmen: Cold War focus, alternative history, and the implication that superhumans would be more danger than boon.
By contrast, The One is far more snide and cynical with its allegory. Its tone shows an open disdain for its targets while almost reveling in its own dystopian plot. The One aims to come off as trashy and pulpy while enjoying every minute of it.
The superhumans themselves don't actually make an appearance until the last third of the comic. Even then, you learn very little about them before they disappear.
There are also many talking-head segments spread throughout the comic. I'm sure there's a Bendis joke to make, but, in fairness, Veitch did it way sooner.
Veitch's art style is equally warped and all the more fun for it. Characters are exaggerated, ranging from rail-thin to morbidly obese. Everyone has something off in their facial features. Kirby Veitch's color palette is off-putting and often unnerving for it. This comic aims to be as ugly as its characters and succeeds for it.
The One is a blast from the past that could easily find its place in the present. A comic that aims to be perceived as ugly and trashy, the brilliance of its themes and narrative outshines all attempts to come off as just another pulpy rag. This one gets a strong recommendation. Pick it up.