By: Chris Roberson (writer), Khary Randolph (art), Mitch Gerads (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters), Bryce Carlson (editor) & Stan Lee (Grand Poobah)

The Story: Benjamin Warner starts to lean WHY it seems that a science fiction story he has had in the back of his mind for years is coming to life around him.

What’s Good: This is a cool little story.  In the last issue we saw the first bits of Benjamin’s sci-fi story coming to life around him in a scene that was very reminiscent of The Matrix or Wanted or A New Hope where suddenly this nothing-special cubicle worker finds out that he may be a part of something bigger than he can imagine.  Only…he did imagine it, because the people and aliens showing up all around him are from a novel/story that he has been trying to write since he was a kid.  WTF is going on???

I really enjoy stories that just toss you into the action and then dole out little bits of background as the story unfolds.  So, here we learn that [SPOILER] Benjamin’s imaginary world is real and that he (and all the other humans) have somehow ended up on Earth (as in BSG) with a big memory wipe.  The reason he has been writing his story is that his memory blocks are falling apart.

Adding to the fun is his protector: Tara Takamoto.  Benjamin has had a crush on her his entire life and now we learn that she has been assigned by some secret society to guard him, so she has a vibe like the Fox in Wanted or 355 in Y the Last Man.

All of this action unfolds against what looks like a huge cosmic backdrop of warring alien races that seems yanked out of any number of space operas.  What is really neat about this issue is that although many (all?) of the plot elements borrow from other fictional works, the result is pretty slick.  It just goes to show that there aren’t really any new ideas, but you can certainly do an excellent job of putting a unique spin on stories we all know.  Not to mention that when a story reminds me of Wanted, The Matrix, Y the Last Man, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica that means I enjoyed the story.  This is really what Stan Lee does well: Take other folks’ concepts and polish/repackage the hell out of them to make a fun story.

Khary Randolph has some great art in this issue.  His style is much more in the Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos school of exaggerated cartooning.  I’ve come to think that this is really the best style for superhero-y/sci-fi comics.  The style allows you draw a very normal looking panel for scenes that need to be serious, but it also allows you to draw an arm twice as long as it really should be when you want to demonstrate some kind of exaggeration in the story.  Often with Boom! titles, I am a little hard on the art because I think it is too paint by numbers and even when the art is good, it isn’t taking very many chances.  Randolph is doing some very cool stuff in this issue and I hope that Boom! continues down this path in the future.

What’s Not So Good: Not much, honestly.  The only things bugging me is that I think I have kinda a clue about how this story will unfold.  I could be dead ass wrong, but because this has pulled from so many (excellent) sources, it gives the reader some sense that you know what might happen next.  I have this feeling that an Obi-Wan Kenobi/Morpheus-like character is right around to the corner who will explain to young Benjamin what the real situation happens to be.  I could also use a little faster pacing from the issue.  One of my favorite current writers is Jeff Parker because of the way he crams two stories into one issue.  I just don’t want to see a first story arc that is 6 issues long where we mostly see Benjamin and Tara being chased by bad aliens and culminating in the Morpheus moment and Benjamin realizing his destiny at the end of #6.

The only other item that ticked my brain that I didn’t love was the possibility that Benjamin might be insane.  I really hope the creators don’t go down that path.  If Stan Lee really is the concept guy behind this, I doubt that would happen, but for some reason it crept into my brain.  Don’t like comics where the central idea is whether or not the protagonist is nuts.

And really…”Grand Poobah”???  C’mon, give the man a title.  If Stan Lee mentioned this concept in 30 seconds over coffee, don’t credit him at all.  If he really is calling the creative shots and Roberson is just executing on his concept, then credit him with the “story” and Roberson with the “script”.  “Grand Poobah” just sounds like something a bunch of 20 year-olds would put on a comic because they thought it sounded cool.  Of course, maybe that is what Mr. Lee wanted to be called.  🙂

Conclusion: This is the best of the “Stan Lee” titles that Boom! has recently launched.  My only complaint is that it could move a little faster and that I might have a feeling where the story is headed, but what we’re getting right now is just great stuff.  And Randolph is doing my favorite art that I’ve ever seen on a Boom! title.

Grade: B+

– Dean Stell