Monday, January 26, 2009

Faces of Evil: Prometheus

Serving as a prelude to the upcoming Justice League #1, Faces of Evil provides a revealing peek behind the façade of the man who once single-handedly overpowered the entire League. When the villain awakens in his cell within Blackgate Penitentiary, two years have passed since his last memory, thanks to a mental blockade provided by the Martian Manhunter. But if the real Prometheus has been catatonic for all of this time, who's been using his name to pull petty heists throughout the city over the last twenty months? Better still, what will the real deal do to him when they eventually cross paths?

In Faces of Evil, writer Sterling Gates is tasked with reinvigorating a popular character who's recently fallen on hard times. Prometheus never really returned to form after his spectacular first appearance left the entire JLA begging for mercy, and if he's to be used as the spoiler for the launch of the team's new series, it's going to take some doing before he can be taken seriously again. Fortunately enough, Gates has come up with a fine solution – the excuse that it's been a mere imposter running around in his clothes all this time may sound a bit too Ben Reilly for some readers, but in this situation it actually works. Gates immediately draws a thick line between the intellectual prowess of the real Prometheus and that of his stand-in, leading me to wonder how anyone could have mistaken one for the other in the first place. He emphasizes that, no matter what you may have seen or heard from him over the last two years, the real Prometheus is back, and this time he's extra pissed.

A lot of this issue takes place in the form of memories. While his body was unresponsive in a jail cell, the villain's mind had all the time in the world to dwell on its adventures, its mistakes and how best to exact its eventual revenge. The situation allows for an easy segue into a brief recap of the character's origin, his history and his relationship with the Justice League. Gates blends fresh details with old stories, effectively catching new readers up with the character's past and rewarding those already familiar with his exploits. When he opens his eyes for the first time in that jail cell, I caught a shiver. This guy means business.

Federico Dallocchio's artwork has its moments. At his best, he's an offbeat mixture of Jae Lee and Tony Harris, abstracting the page with adventurous camera angles and thick, bulky characters. Dallocchio is capable of delivering some nice work, but we only see his best in a few brief glimpses this month: a fantastic panel of the imposter Prometheus leaping from a hotel rooftop in a driving rainstorm, for example. His finest moments are almost good enough for me to overlook his worst, were they not so much more widespread. Federico's page layouts are often so busy and detailed that they border on illegibility. His unique choices in perspective are hit and miss, with every fantastic shot from an original angle matched by three or four choices so bizarre, it's nigh impossible to figure out what it is we're looking at. With a bit of restraint and a focus on consistency, Dallocchio could be a solid contributor, but he's presently lacking on both counts.

That said, this remains a solid issue. As a one-shot with a specific goal in sight, the story doesn't linger. It retells a concise, convincing origin for the character, returns him to a spot near the top of the villainous pecking order and almost immediately reminds readers of what made him such a cool freaking enemy for the League to face in the first place. Borrow it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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