“Legenderry” opens with an enjoyable slow build of a story that isn’t out to prove anything. Bill Willingham and Sergio Fernandez Davila are being leisurely, enjoying their premise, and it’s clear that the sell for this series will be the fun of watching so many different characters interact in a brand-new setting. It’s attractive not because of what happens, but with who and where.
The plot will eventually involve seven or eight Dynamite licensed characters — the Phantom, Flash Gordon, Red Sonja, Kato — but in the first issue the reader really only gets to spend time with Vampirella and Green Hornet. I was entertained by both steampunk incarnations. The Hornet is knowingly, gleefully and performatively foppish in his publisher persona, while Vampirella acts the gracious hostess as only Vampirella can — by ripping intruders upon her nightclub to pieces. These versions of the characters have been cleverly and thoroughly thought out, and I definitely had fun reading them.
The world itself? Not as much just yet. Davila opens with some solid full- and two-page spreads that clearly establish the feel of the universe, but not too many of its details. The central city is only known as Big City. The all-seeing radio host narrator even begins by addressing “Mr. and Mrs. Everyman.” While it’s a clever enough conceit, it isn’t super satisfying, and it doesn’t set this steampunk world apart from all the others out there.
To be fair, a general and generic steampunk feel may be all they’re aiming for; they’ve got enough of a pitch with their cast alone. But for a series where part of the pull is the alternate universe, I would have loved to see some of the careful touches that made “Fables” so effective.
Willingham does commit whole hog to the inflated period language. Sometimes it works brilliantly, with descriptions such as “animals barely out of the forest primeval, who can’t admit they prefer a brutish highball to an authentic and civilized cocktail.” Other times, it rings a bit awkward. (“That harrowing encounter failed to dissuade me.”) Even at his least fluid, he’s playing neatly with the rhythms that this style can bring to his dialogue, so I imagine it will get smoother and more uniformly well-executed as the 7-issue series progresses.
While I liked the inking, I wasn’t a huge fan of Wes Hartman’s coloring, which seemed confused about whether it was going for a greyer, more penciled look or a glossier shine. This was especially noticeable with the blacks, which shifted from dull to shiny without any clear reason. Either approach would’ve worked for me, but when the two approaches bled together it didn’t always mesh. That said, in those panels where it could figure out where it wanted to go, the effects were engaging and attractive.
I most enjoyed the art during Vampirella’s action scene. When she’s flying through the air or rending limbs in arced, bloody rainbows, Davila conveys her frenzy and power impressively. These panels got me excited to see how he’ll work with the other upcoming characters’ fighting styles.
Will this issue convince you to pick up “Legenderry” if you weren’t already attracted to the premise? Probably not. However, that’s because they deliver exactly what was promised. For readers who liked the idea, or who’ve been a longtime fan of any of these characters, this issue definitely doesn’t disappoint.