Aspen's "10 for $10" experiment ends with "Michael Turner's Soulfire" #1, written by J.T. Krul with an assist from Frank Mastromauro and art from V. Ken Marion. Of the ten titles offered to readers during the promotion, "Soulfire" #1 is the most insular. It tries to present a new tale for new readers, but so much of it is built on concepts and storylines that have already played out in previous "Soulfire" installments.
The story from Krul and Mastromauro doesn't flow smoothly, but stops and starts in fits, with a seemingly incongruous time-leap in the middle. I'm sure it will blend together more as the series progresses, but with a one-dollar hook, creators have to bait a little smarter to get the fish to stay on the line. "Soulfire" #1 opens with a scene in 2211, then jumps to 2213, branding that as "now," but neither scene gives Krul enough time to instill any personality in the handful of characters introduced in the first issue of this latest volume of "Soulfire." We meet Vanyss, Andre, P.J., Benoist, Malikai, Sonia and Grace. None of them are overly interesting or display anything substantially worthy of coming back for.
V. Ken Marion's storytelling is decent enough to keep "Soulfire" #1 visually engaging, but his characters are extremely extreme: the women are all waifish, dainty things, the men hulking brutes, or at least on their way to being brutish. The backgrounds have impressions of detail, but mostly the "details" are busy-ness meant to add texture, motion or both. Add in some pouches and ridiculously oversized weapons and this comic book would be a stellar 1990s throwback, which is not necessarily meant as a compliment.
I can understand the desire to hold onto a house style to honor the founder of the company, but slavishly clinging to that look while storytelling, anatomy and diversity suffer does not make it right. Marion's style doesn't want to be a tribute to Turner, and to be fair, Marion isn't Turner. His art isn't pushed far enough to be manga, nor is it tight enough to be realistic. Instead, it's just somewhere in between, waiting for a push in one direction or the other. Kyle Ritter adds substantially bright colors to the pages, however, helping to add some punch to the comic, even is much of the coloring is overly saturated.
"Michael Turner's Soulfire" #1 is more of a new adventure for longtime Soulfire fans than a true introduction for new readers. As such, I'm sure those seasoned vets will appreciate it more than I found myself able to. I'm not sure where this comic story is going, but I won't be hurrying along with it, unlike some of the other "10 for $10" launches.