It's very easy to compare all of these Stan Lee-spearheaded superhero comic projects against one another even though they're all mildly different. This isn't Lee like he was in 1963, but it is still fun, if ham-fisted at times. Out of the glut of creations from BOOM!, this one might just be my favorite. It's not perfectly executed but it certainly is an extremely fun premise with plenty of room to enchant.
Chris Roberson is on scripting duty and he pulls a sneaky and clever trick in the first three pages: he writes exactly like you think Stan would. We get the details of the space opera landscape and its inhabitants, and it's all taking place within a Word document of Benjamin Warner. He's a writer who loves his work, especially because it takes him away from his boring 9-to-5 job. We can see an interesting and meek hero ready to be sculpted into something more.
There are many pointed nods toward old school science fiction as Benjamin discovers his stories of intergalactic humans and heroes are echoes of a previous writer, Kirk Allen, and his pulp classics about the aliens and politics of this shared landscape. It's like finding out your current novel has its origin in a forgotten Edgar Rice Burroughs series. It's an intriguing mystery and yields some great juxtaposing art.
Fiction meets reality as Benjamin's ideas storm into his life and attack him. He's caught in a warped reality and, to make things more confusing, he is rescued by an old friend of his that turns out to be a shape-changer from his own works. Benjamin grew up with this girl through every layer of schooling and then lost contact. They were close enough that he has a timeline of paired Polaroids with her on his office desk. Yet, when he sees her in the front foyer after years of separation, he doesn't race back down to her. It's little flaws like this that make this comic not feel completely thought out at times.
Randolph's art is relatively light and fun, and he carries the story and characters well. He paces action well and knows when to break a page in a different manner to get you reading the movement differently. It's a great juxtaposition to his fantasy art that assays old paperback cover work and is exceptionally lifted by the colors of Gerads. It's fun to see the style and tone change depending on the setting. It is the dual style of Randolph that makes the comic feel like such a treat.
It's a powerful statement that even through all of the logic flaws and moments that don't add up, this comic is still massively enjoyable. The premise is a mixture of the "Matrix" meets "Fight Club" with literary devices you might find in Philip K Dick's work. All this is then put through a lens as if it's an 80s Zemeckis film. It's a Stan Lee creation of an average man -- someone we can identify with -- who finds himself in an extraordinary problem that will require exceptional solutions. This comic is fun and if you give it a chance it might just take you to another place. It certainly looks like it's got a few quality arcs in this set up if it plays its cards smartly.