Written by Serge Lehman, Fabrice Colin | Art by Gess | Published by Titan Comics
While not a complete success, the first issue of this series last month was interesting enough to make me want to come back again. It was easy to see the influences of Mike Mignola and Alan Moore, especially through books like B.P.R.D and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and of tributes to various Golden Age characters. I counted Superman, Doc Savage, and The Shadow specifically (though here called Steele, Professor Iron, and The Hidden), though there were plenty or other archetypes like mad scientists, speedsters etc. It had a fun, retro feel to it that I really liked.
To quickly recap, this all takes place in an alt-Earth in the 1930′s, where the chemical warfare of the First World War had led to the creation of super humans, some good and some bad. The first issue had seen the super humans all called to a secret meeting by Dr Missbrauch, who intended to create a superhuman state and attack the ‘normal’ humans. Marie Curie’s daughter Irene has infiltrated the meeting with the intention of trying to stop Missbrauch, and another super human, The Cockroach, had made a dramatic arrival to warn them all not to trust Missbrauch. It was more complicated than I have just described, but that gives a decent primer.
This issue starts at The Radium Institute in Paris, where Irene Curie is the lead researcher, continuing the work of her dead mother. A colleague, Dr Flohr, is working on an ‘elastic man’, who can grow and shrink, and who promptly escapes to rampage through Paris. Paris is protected by its own superhero, The Eye, who we are not too sure about at this stage; he seems to be a hero, but not everyone seems to like him. More characters are introduced to an already crowded arena, George Spad and Racine Alfonzo, and I must confess to having to keep checking who’s who. Are these important characters? who do they connect to? why are we following them? I do, however, like the way real life people are woven in, in this case mentions of Salvador Dali and of course, Marie Curie.
We shift away to another new character, ‘The Man Who Walks Through Walls, who looks a little like The Spirit but dressed all in white, who is on a mission to infiltrate the HQ of The Eye. His ability to phase through walls is obviously very helpful. The mission fails, but he does manage to find the imprisoned Cockroach. He reports this back to Irene, who is desperate to free him, seemingly at all costs. We again get hints The Eye is not quite as heroic as he seems, and may have been involved in Curie’s death, and find out that George Spad is writing his biography. Oh, and she hears voices who tell her what to say to people.
This can all be very tough going, trying to understand who is who, who’s doing what, piecing together the history between all these characters, but if you can decipher all that there is quite the intriguing tale here. A lot of thought has gone into creating these characters and their world, and it shows. The story is very dialogue heavy, but the dialogue always serves the story well.
The artist Gess does a great job by accommodating the huge amount of text and still managing to make the art look appealing. Not many artists can make 16 panels a page, which happens several times, not look overly cluttered and hard to follow. The art is reminiscent of Mignola, which suits this material perfectly, and gives proceedings a suitably retro-futurist look, a time in the past with slightly accelerated technology.
It is worth sticking with this, though it can be a tougher read than your average book. The entertainment, and promise of much more to come, will make it worth your while.