The first issue of Chris Miskiewicz and Palle Schmidt’s “Thomas Alsop” gets off to an awkward start, but once it develops past Thomas’ posturing and dives into its premise, it’s quite enjoyable. The title hero is the Hand of the Island: the protector of Manhattan from all its supernatural goings-on. It’s a family title that’s been handed down to him through the generations. Miskiewicz and Schmidt present a moody vision of Manhattan that looks as though spirits really could inhabit it. Their world is an interesting place to explore; it’s just their protagonist that needs some work.
The opening of the issue is quite precious and contrived, addressing the reader as “strange citizens” and making statements like, “This is me, Thomas Alsop. I am a media sensation.” His narration is peppered with ultimatums like “Deal with it” and “Move on, or don’t; your choice” that are meant to sound badass, but come off a bit childish. Miskiewicz works hard to sell Thomas’ devil-may-care, sarcastic attitude of condescending nonchalance, and it could have worked a bit later in the issue. As a start, though, it makes Thomas feel more like an unlikeable caricature of a rockstar than an antihero.
As the issue progresses, Thomas’ narration is tempered by his character. He seems to keep the same friends, maintain a steady relationship and — judging by his reaction at issue’s end — take his job as The Hand of the Island quite seriously. He becomes more of a person and less of an exaggeration, which undoes some of the damage of the opening, but most of the second half of the issue isn’t dedicated to him.
Instead, it’s dedicated to the first Alsop to serve as Hand of the Island. In a problematic plot point, Thomas’ white ancestor is given the honor and burden of serving as Hand by a Native American ‘shaman,’ who chooses him because he defends women accused of witchcraft. It is unclear why that makes him worthier than any members of the shaman’s own tribe or family, but the first Alsop’s story is intriguing and mysterious. I definitely liked the second half of the issue better.
Schmidt’s art is a bit lopsided, but he does know how to create a mood. His coloring is especially evocative. He isn’t afraid to make drastic changes to illustrate a change in setting. When Thomas is in the real world, the panels are dark and heavily inked. When he goes into his dreamscape/otherworld, they’re almost entirely white, with a few earthy colors — brown, sea blue — outlining the characters. When operating in the past, it’s all in a predictable but pretty grayscale. This creates a sense of place that the actual linework would otherwise fail to convey.
I especially like Schmidt’s effect for the Hand of the Island’s abilities. As I mentioned above, most of the scenes are more muted, but when the Hand uses his powers, the entire panel switches to red. Since the mechanics of the Hand’s powers aren’t quite clear yet, it’s an effective method for conveying that “something mystical” is happening in a big way.
All told, “Thomas Alsop” could develop into an interesting series if it tones down Thomas’ character and brings out its intriguing mythology more and more.