The first issue of “Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!” wasn’t very good, but it certainly had a connection to “Final Crisis” with its hairy, on-the-lamb protagonist Mike Miller, a character whose pathetic career in obscure villainy was resurrected by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones in last year’s DC event series.
“Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape” #1 has no such connection. The series may yet prove to connect to last year’s reviled and/or adored superhero epic, but as of this first issue this is a series that should probably have been called “Nemesis: The Prisoner,” but it wasn’t because that wouldn’t sell nearly as many copies.
This is a good first issue, a much better launch to a miniseries than the one that featured a naked Human Flame and his hijinx with the Eastern European mob. This series, written by the on-the-rise Ivan Brandon and illustrated by “Final Crisis” fill-in artist Marco Rudy (wait! There’s the “Final Crisis” connection! It’s following up on what Marco Rudy is doing after the main series concluded!), tells the nightmarish tale of Nemesis — Tom Tresser — trapped in a world he never made. And by “nightmarish,” I don’t mean that it’s horrifying, although it certainly is in its own way, but I rather mean to imply that there’s a disturbing dream-like quality to the narrative that matches Tresser’s reaction to the world around him. He awakens to find himself in an unfamiliar pseudo-prison, with characters he recognizes lingering on the fringes.
It’s the Patrick McGoohan “The Prisoner” done with third tier DC characters. And it works precisely because it’s all questions and no answers. Tom Tresser doesn’t know where he is — or why — and neither do we, but the unanswered questions are a great hook to drive a mini-series.
Marco Rudy’s art isn’t overwhelmingly impressive here, but he does a nice job shifting his style to match the changing psychology of the landscape — or the changing psychology of Nemesis (a man who has made a living pretending to be something he’s not, and that question of identity is thematically resonant here without being explicit). The opening sequence looks stiff and the characters too posed, but they are doll-like in appearance and their “unnatural” poses fit their seemingly manufactured bearing. It’s creepy because of Nemesis’s uncertainty, but also because of these plastic-looking fem-bots serving him refreshments. Later, Rudy uses a labyrinth motif blending with his panels as Tresser makes his way — hesitantly, awkwardly — through his newfound prison. And when Count Vertigo and Cameron Chase appear, the pages turn into a swirling mass in a near-homage to something J.H. Williams III might devise (with Chase popping up in the story, and Mick Gray on inks, the Williams III connection is not exactly a shock).
Some might find this opening issue to be too thin on plot details and to short on answers, but I loved the attempts to play with a variety of page layouts and the deep paranoia evoked from page to page. And any comic which has Wonder Woman encased in a Build-a-Friend box from Jack Kirby’s “OMAC” series is a lot better than most of the rote spin-offs you’ll see from DC.
We don’t know hardly anything by the end of “Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape” #1, but that we are enticed to come back for more.