Incarnate #1

This wasn't what I expected at all.

Based on what I've sampled of Radical's comic book output, I expected this to be an overwrought movie-pitch-in-comics-form, or something high in concept but low in execution. Slick, sure, but soulless.

"Incarnate" is nothing like that.

Instead, Nick Simmons (and his legion of art assistants) gives us a deeply manga-influenced series about immortal beings at war with humanity. It looks a lot closer to "Death Note" than it does to "Hercules: The Thracian Wars" and the sometimes crude but always energetic art works perfectly for this story. This sucker hums along from the first page 'til the last, and it proves that Nick Simmons is interested in telling a comic book story. Not an illustrated film treatment.

Though the "Death Note" influence is the most obvious -- in the character designs, and in much of the storytelling -- there's also a bit of "Sandman" and a bit of "Vampire: The Masquerade" in the corners of this book. It's about gods, immortals, demons, and it's about their increased marginalization over the years. They now lurk in the shadows, or operate out of squalid rented rooms, or half-abandoned parking garages. Meanwhile, the humans -- and an organization called "The Sanctum" -- will stop at nothing to wipe the remaining immortals off the face of the Earth.

Sometimes this first issue reads a bit like a kid trying to breathlessly tell a really cool story he came up with during study hall. There's a lot of shooting in the face, and the exposition in the first half of the story is a bit leaden, but there's an undeniable joy emanating from this gruesome comic. And for every misstep with over-boiled inner monologue or turgidly "important" speeches, Simmons does a dozen things right. And, best of all, he revolves the entire swirling story around a great character: Mot, the mischievous, deadly demon in the body of a teenager.

Without Mot to undercut the high seriousness of the battle between the immortals and the Sanctum, this comic wouldn't work at all. Mot drives this story from the inside, and Simmons gives us only a few hints to the eternal secrets he holds. Yet the character is not so much enigmatic as precocious, a trickster type who seems to be covering up hidden depths of character with his absurd actions. Mot makes this series worth reading.

Nick Simmons and the gang have done a nice job engaging the reader and establishing the rules of their world in this first issue. It may be an amalgamation of other comics and role-playing game ideas, but it's a good amalgamation. And it's anything but dull.

(If you'd like to see what issue #1 looks like, CBR has a 14-page preview.)

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