Tom Stillwell's new comic, Honor Brigade, came out this week from his own comic company, Spinner Rack Comics. It is an interesting start, although Stillwell clearly has a lot of growth as a writer for the comic to be a top book, but I enjoy the spirit and tone of Stillwell's work, enough so that I think he will be able to achieve that growth.
The first issue introduces us to a hero named Toy Boy. Here, then, though, is a major drawback of the first issue (probably THE biggest drawback). The book is called Honor Brigade, right? The book is about a team of superheroes. Know how I know that? Not from the comic, that's for sure! I read an interview Stillwell gave at ComicBloc, and I saw a pin-up at the end of the issue that showed a group of heroes I presume are the Honor Brigade.
In the comic, though, there is not even a hint that this is the formation of a superhero team. I do not expect a team to be formed, or even heroes meet each other, but something more than just featuring a single hero without any mention of other heroes. This bit of mystery is highlighted by the fact that Toy Boy's actions PERIOD are mysterious. He is attacking a company that is presumably owned by bad guys, which is fine. But when you aren't clear about the formation of the team OR what Toy Boy is doing, then what you have is a first issue of an entirely new comic with no real hints of what it going on.
Like Stillwell, artist Bradley Bowers certainly has some talent, but it seems like it needs to be honed a bit. Check out this sample page...
Bowers does some nice linework, but his sequentials need to be worked on. That is not a huge deal, though, as sequential work is usually the one thing that artists routinely improve upon, the more they do it (while linework often can be a "You either have it or you don't" type of thing).
Probably the highlight of the book is Stillwell's work with a minor character in the book - the alcoholic security guard at the company Toy Boy is attacking. The bad guys want to eliminate him because he knows about Toy Boy's attack, but could the former cop have the gumption to do something about what he saw? I am always impressed when writers take minor characters that could just be simple caricatures ("the drunk security guard") and actually DO something with them.
Perhaps because of the similarities of the character, but most likely because of the tone of the book, this first issue reminds me of of Kurt Busiek's Astro City - that same sense of "all ages, but not childish" that Astro City evokes is exactly what Tom Stillwell gets across in Honor Brigade.
A tighter plot, and some stronger sequential artwork, and Honor Brigade will be a refreshing, fun comic book.
For now, I wouldn't recommend it just yet, but the future of this book is bright.