by James Robinson (Writer), Steve Pugh (Artist), Guru e-FX (Colorist)
The Story: Jim Hammond receives the visit of an alien being who is rather chatty about what she wants and where she think it might be.
The Review: Some writers are known for certain types of stories, certain genres. Geoff Johns is known for big super hero stories with a certain penchant for revitalization of silver age ideas, Ed Brubaker does noir very well and so forth. With these types of stories, it’s always a safe bet to understand the types of things a writer is best known for, as it does always ensure a certain safe bet in what the strengths of a particular writer might be.
James Robinson, the writer of this new series, is someone who knows how to work with older heroes, doing so splendidly in his magnum opus, Starman, as well in JSA: The Golden Age. With a certain knack for writing the legacy part of super heroes and people who have lived for a long period of time, it does seem quite fitting for him to be attached to All-New Invaders, a series about a team that did its things during World War 2. However, James Robinson is a rather uneven writer, which has been unfortunately shown in his Earth 2 series during the latest issues he wrote and in his previous tenure on Justice League of America. With his reputation, does this title seem to balance in the better part of his writing skills or is the first issue too problematic to be enjoyable?
It’s a bit of a balance between the two, for the most part. While the issue focus on something that Robinson is quite capable of writing, there are occasional troubles that comes down to plague the overall quality of the work. With this issue focusing mostly on Jim Hammond, Robinson is able to push forth his voice rather well, explaining in enough details how he landed in a small town and how he feels about his new life, getting us up to speed in the history of the character as well as what makes him tick. The general understanding of the character and what he went through is aptly balanced in the issue, with the part in which we understand the life of Jim Hammond being rather nice to read.
The action, in this issue, is also pretty solid. It isn’t the very best, mind you, yet the conflict is clearly established, the stakes a bit mysterious yet defined enough for them to matter and the actions of each characters in the issue well-defined on the page. There are two in the issue, with one set in the town of Blaketon and the other in a flashback, sort-of, with the second being the better one with perhaps a higher variety of characters and better lines in general. The action, while not the best feature of the book, is decent enough to be considered a positive rather than the contrary.
Where the book loses a bit of its appeal, though, is with the unevenly stiff dialogue. While it is not generally so, a lot of lines in the book feel a bit forced, as if speaking in exposition rather than in any form resembling reactions and normal every-day conversation. There are some moments where the exposition gets a bit in the way of the general tale, which is to be expected in setting a new conflict and a whole new series, yet they can comes as a bit of an hindrance in the more serious or drama-filled scenes of the book.
Speaking of drama, I also have to say I am rather disappointed in something that Robinson did in his Image comics series The Saviors that he reiterates here, namely killing a support character for pure shock and drama. The introduction of Jim’s boss, a rather likable character that seems to be genuinely caring about his employee, seems a bit too much as the character only appear for a couple of pages before being retired from the story. While the impact is felt through the actions of Jim Hammond, the one on the reader is non-existent, save for a certain disappointment in not seeing more of Jim and his story in how he got there and got his job in this town. It’s classic ”women in a refrigerator”, yet this time with a man in his fourties/fifties.
What’s much less disappointing, though, is Steve Pugh who is quite competent here. While he could be a bit stiff in some of his previous work on Animal Man, there is a good sense of composition and action here that makes the issue worthwhile visually. The characters, while a bit stereotypical in their poses, are rather expressive thanks to their emotions and their body language, which makes their reaction a bit better than their dialogue. The action, for the most part, is lively enough to provide excitement as the sense of impact and the numerous energy blasts are well-rendered on the pages. There are some occasional moments where the stiffness is a bit back, especially with a lot of characters in the same panel. Still, where Pugh seems to shine here is in his sceneries, with alien planets, a Nazi bunker and a small town in Illinois being very well brought to life thanks to his skills. There is a certain sensation of scope and depth that is rather neat brought by the backgrounds and scenery that manage to make this issue pleasant visually.
What’s also rather surprising is the range brought by Guru eFX, a colorist that had only competent in Thunderbolts. The way the shading and the rather diverse effects of lighting are brought up in each pages is well done, especially considering the alien tech and the flames brought by Jim Hammond in several pages. While the colorization might be a tad in the hyperbole at times, there is definite sense of energy going on thanks to sharp contrasts between various elements, with Jim Hammond being a very potent source of warm colors against the more bright and cold colors set in the background. It’s not the best colorization of all time, but the energy put into it makes it quite enjoyable nonetheless.
The Conclusion: The stiff dialogue and the rather questionable choice of killing certain characters is balanced with the nice art, decent action and the generally entertaining characterization of Jim Hammond. A nice read, if not a bit safe at times, that manage to be rather enjoyable despite its flaws.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière