by Rick Remender (Writer), Wes Craig (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Colorist)
The Story: Marcus gets acquainted with life at his new school as he somehow make friends and enemies.
The Review: There is a saying that pretend that all stories have already been told, that everything is a constant reutilization of the same concepts yet with different names and interpretations. While it is a bold statement that can be verified at length in multiple levels of fiction, there is a certainty in saying that many stories and ideas look very similar to each other. With this theory in mind, it comes to the writer to make things fresh and twist things up to make use of an established formula to make it so readers still care about what’s on the page, screen or whichever media is used.
It seems, in many ways, that this is what Rick Remender must had in mind when he created this story. Set in a school that trains assassins, the story focus on Marcus, a young Nicaraguan teen who got a bad start in life. Presenting his story in an overly classical architecture of how school are portrayed in many medias, Remender tries to make it so his concept bring in many comparisons and contrasts for the illusion of normalcy to work in favour of his comic.
It’s a sound approach, yet not one that is really working well in this issue. While there are some neat ideas shown with the classes and their teachers, there isn’t much else working in favour to this storytelling technique. Marcus is still the rebel kid, there is a bully (who is of Russian nationality to boot), there is a fat and nerdy kid and everyone is talking about the new kid in school. There are some tidbits which are interesting, yet for a rather big concepts, Remender does not go far enough to provide enough shock or material for contrast in themes and approach.
Still, despite this, Remender does deserve some credits in the fact that he builds up a whole world, a cast and a setting quite well in the span of a little less than 30 pages. Presenting some clear personalities, cliques and a certain way that the school function, there is a lot of material for development and surprises here that can fuel the series for a while.
Still, a series cannot function very well without a good lead, a character that readers can invest themselves into. Marcus, in his own way, works and doesn’t as he is presented as the anti-social outcast he presents himself to be. Being the new kid in school as well as the damaged good that he is, Marcus is somewhat sympathetic, yet also a bit of an ass, which makes him a good lead in terms of potential evolution and discovery of several ideas without making him a clueless or unlikable protagonist. However, while he does proclaim that he has a high goal to achieve, his actions and his thoughts aren’t exactly what propels the book forward more than he is merely one of the participant, which doesn’t sell the character very well in terms of beginnings. He’s decent, but he could be great someday.
Where the comic wanders into excellence, though, is with its artistic direction, with Wes Craig being superb in many aspects. The panelling, the sense of motion, the progression of movements and the fluidity of the visual pacing is excellent here, with Craig playing around with the many elements he put in each pages. Allowing the scenes to be important to his layouts as well as some of the elements and characters, some of the focalization on actions, details and other such things actually contribute greatly to the tone of the script as well as the dialogue. It’s pretty impressive stuff.
Still, Craig does not weaken in other aspects, with his characters being evocative enough with their emotions, expressions and reactions to allow for them to look alive enough on the page. Opting for a more concentrated amount of panels focusing on the heads of his characters, the larger and more stylized traits and features allow for the relative hyperbole to present a wide range without being an overt caricature. It’s lightly cartoony, yet it works wonderfully with the presentation and the themes of the book.
However, as much as Craig does a great job, Lee Loughridge push the book in the territory of excellence with his monochromatic and highly evolving style when it comes to colors. Always focusing on a color to serve as the primary foil for others in each pages and in a good collection of panels, Loughridge switch from a color to another to allow for the change in tone to be fluid as well as easy for readers. Helping some of the already great transitions tremendously, the colorist makes this book a powerhouse in terms of visuals.
The Conclusion: Some of the themes and the approach may need a little bit more work to become more than identifiable stereotypes, yet the excellence in the artistic direction as well as some of the better concepts makes this issue work very well despite it all. Very nice, yet it could be a true powerhouse if the script matched the quality of the art.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière