At first glance, "Never Ending" #1 by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Robert Love has a fun basic thrust. Take a never-aging superhero, and detail his never ending adversarial relationship with a scientist who keeps trying to defeat him... until finally, the superhero is ready to let the villain win. But with "Never Ending" taking its entire first issue to set this up, it feels a little less interesting when you realize that this is only a three-issue mini-series.
I appreciate that Knave and Kirkbride are trying to give a good glimpse into the history of Chuck, the Superman-analog that stars in "Never Ending." By seeing his life play out over the years, you get an idea of how the rivalry between Chuck and Archie keeps repeating itself, even as the entire world ages and dies while Chuck remains as youthful as when he first received his powers. It's a concept that, honestly, could have easily been turned into a long ongoing (and dare I say it, never ending) series. But by front-loading all of this backstory, "Never Ending" is a book that is only just getting to move forward at the end of the issue, and it's already a third of the way through the entire series. Readers won't know until the next issue if this means that the book will be moving forward at warp speed from here out, if there just isn't much more story material, or if "Never Ending" needed more issues that it's getting, but it's a slightly uneasy feeling no matter which of those three options turn out to be correct.
What I do like about this first issue is how Knave and Kirkbride play with the advancement of time. Little details like Archie's ever-increasing age are expected, of course, but I also appreciate how they've given Chuck and Ellie a multi-racial relationship in 1950 and frame it within that time period rather than projecting a modern sensibility to it. They're paying attention to how each year would react differently to the events of "Never Ending" #1, and that's the best thing about the comic; they're taking the concept and bring it to a logical conclusion.
Love's art doesn't feel quite as sharp and strong as I've remembered it with past comics. It's not bad, but everything seems a little less clean than I would have expected. When Ellie answers the door, her proportions seem really off, and she's so wasp-waisted on the next page that it looks like a strong breeze would snap her in two. Then again, on that first page with Chuck and Ellie, Chuck himself looks more Cro-Magnon than modern human; his face is so slack-jawed and dull looking that it's hard to reconcile with the mechanic two pages earlier, let alone as the superhero Chuck. Every now and then the art just sings, though; I love the way that he draws Ellie when she turns and says, "Chuck?" right before their first flight together; she's drawn impeccably by Love, a very graceful and put-together rendition. I just wish we had more images like that, and less like the time where Chuck grabs the crooks in 1951, which feels a little crude and rushed on the page.
"Never Ending" #1 has some real promise, and I hope that the remaining two issues pull everything together well. But with some strange pacing and uneven art, right now it doesn't feel like it's quite polished. I'll take another glance, but for the moment I feel like this comic won't have the time necessary to hit its full potential.