Monday, February 16, 2009

The Mighty #1

In this retrospective look at a more innocent era, we're introduced to Alpha One – the world's first and, so far, only super hero. Embraced by both the public and the law, Alpha One enjoys the support and backup of Section Omega, his own dedicated police force, fronted by an old friend by the name of Gabriel Cole. But when a high-profile murder shakes the organization to its core, things start to unravel. Maybe these simpler times aren't quite as ingenuous as they'd seemed at first...

Co-writers Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne have teamed to script an accurate look back at several notable eras of the superhero genre. When the book opens, we're whisked back to the 1950s, when the nation was both and respectful and apprehensive of the combined blessing and threat of nuclear energy. Moments later, we leap forward thirty-odd years to a modernized vision of the early '90s without batting an eyelash. Tomasi and Champagne make us feel at home in both instances, adding little details and eccentricities that both validate the timeframe and set their readers at ease. The backstories of Alpha One and his support squad are introduced via the unique media outlets of each era, and are accomplished so casually they almost catch their audience by surprise. I was completely up to speed after eight pages, but it didn't feel like I'd gone through boot camp to get there.

The Mighty goes to great lengths to achieve that level of comfort, and it in the end it pays off in spades. Naturally, you know what they say about the best-laid plans… just as soon as you've come to grips with the utopian status quo of this land, the plot takes a violent turn for the worst. I can't argue with the timing, the setup nor the delivery. The sharp curve this issue takes just beyond the midway point hits like a body blow – it's the ground rushing towards your face that wakes you from a peaceful dream.

The issue's artwork, provided by Peter Snejbjerg, is uncomplicated but strong. While he does churn out a handful of nice compositions, this is primarily a character-driven story and Snejbjerg has no problem moving out of the way while the dialog takes center stage. His artwork feels authentic when the narration is set in the distant past, but still relevant and applicable when the perspective shifts towards the more modern era. Perhaps most impressive is Snejbjerg's ability to subtly shift the tone of a panel through careful tinkering with camera angles and lighting. When Alpha One stands guard over the city at the issue's conclusion, the panel could have easily been seen as a noble portrait of the resident hero. But in his hands it takes a very mildly sinister turn – one that I'm convinced is a sign of things to come. I'm not sure how many other artists could have conveyed that slight a turn of emotion.

This issue was as good an introduction as I've seen in the last few years. Although it's a very easy read, the plot is tremendously multi-layered and the cast is compelling. If subsequent issues can manage to follow up on many of the promises delivered by this introduction, we're in for a real treat. Buy it up, this one deserves all the attention it can get.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9.5

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