There's a comic coming out this week that I thought I should review, as I read it quite some time ago. And The Greatest American Hero is tangentially involved!
For those of you who don't know, William Katt has started a comics company, Catastrophic Comics. This might not be the best name for a company, as why would you want your comics to be catastrophic, but if they're quality books, it won't matter, right? Well, the first comic from the company, Sparks #1, is coming on this Wednesday, and I wanted to give it a look. So thanks to Christopher Folino, the writer, who let me read the first issue. How do they stand up?
We begin with the proverbial dark and stormy night. We're in a gloomy city, and a bloodied man staggers into a police station and wants to report a murder. The man is named Sparks, and the cop knows him well, from what we can tell. Sparks wants to tell his origin story, and we see him when he's thirteen and his family's car gets hit by a train carrying some kind of weird red stuff that drenches him. This naturally gives him superpowers, and he becomes a superhero. Why not? He moves to the city and fights crime. He realizes he needs a partner, and one night he meets one: A woman named Serenity (at least I'm pretty sure that's her name, as Sparks never actually calls her by name). They have an instant connection (a sexual one, of course) and become partners. Everything is wonderful for a year, but it can't last, can it? There's a bad guy, there's a problem, and things go bad.
Folino does a decent job setting everything up. He doesn't re-invent the wheel, but the noir feel he establishes in the first few pages sets a good mood, and as the book takes place in the late 1940s, there's some nice touches placing the book in the time period. Folino doesn't even do much in terms of writing - a lot of the book is silent, and Folino allows the art to tell the story. JM Ringuet, who provides the art, does a great job. His blocky figures don't seem to fit well with a superhero book, but this is much more a noir tale than a superhero one, and Ringuet gives us a great feel for the period and for the spookiness of the city. He has a couple of gorgeous splash pages that really sink us into the book, and when Sparks and Serenity are trying to figure out what's going in the latter part of the book, Ringuet's strong art is all the storytelling that is needed - we get a perfect sense of the scene, and the tension rises immeasurably, largely because it's silent. The cliffhanger is fairly typical, but that doesn't mean it's not effective.
I'd like to tell you more about the series, but my links for issue #2 don't seem to be working (and I never got around to reading it before, so I can't even give you a vague sense of what happens). I'm intrigued as to where the story is going, and as you know, I'm a bit of a sucker for noir stories, especially those set during the "golden age" of noir, as this is. If the story is a bit familiar, Ringuet's art makes up for it, and the fact that Sparks is covered in blood at the beginning and reporting a murder is certainly intriguing, because it leads us into a situation where he's the narrator, and he could be lying. That's always fun. Ringuet mentions on his blog that there are a lot of twists and turns in the story, so I'm looking forward to that.
Catastrophic has the first six pages at their web site (follow the link above) if you're interested in checking it out. It's an eight-issue mini-series, and it's always nice when a new comic book company shows up, so if you see it on the shelves this week, give it a look. What do you have to lose?