Writer: Kyle Higgins & Joe Gentile
Artist: Alexandre Shibao
Colors: Natalia Marques
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover: Tom Mandrake & Wil Quintana
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviving pulp characters into comic franchises has seen some success recently with The Shadow, Green Hornet and Doc Savage, so even though I wasn’t familiar with this property, I was interested in giving it a look. There was a quick introduction at the beginning of the book that helps bring us up to speed on the main character. This helped a bit, but none of it comes into play in the actual issue. The book is about Richard Benson, an adventurer who loses his family, causing him facial paralysis (sure, we’ve all been there) and exacts revenge on those that would prey on others. He gathered a group of what we’re told are “specialists” to form Justice Inc.
We begin in an FBI interrogation room, where Benson is being held on murder charges, for a character we never learn anything about. It quickly becomes clear that the Feds are just trying to railroad Benson, but we’re never given any reasoning for this. While it was explained that he suffers from face paralysis, when slapped by one of the FBI agents his face concaves like putty that he squishes back into place. This may be a known trait of the character, but it was not explained that way in the intro. This was just one of several things I found baffling in this book.
I didn’t find any of the cast likeable or memorable, unfortunately. All the “good guys” hate each other, and as for being “specialists” they seemed rather inept in most situations. The Feds and criminals, who may be one and the same, didn’t fare much better. I found the dialogue to be stilted, with everyone constantly speaking in quotes and idioms. This is followed by a character asking why they can’t have real conversations, so perhaps it was intentional. No one clearly states what their intentions are, yet they all get incredibly mad for arbitrary reasons. This seems most evident towards the end of the issue were one of the semi-crooked agents comes home to his wife berating him for being obsessed with bringing down Benson. Being that he isn’t a character we’re led to care about, why would we care if his wife doesn’t like him? It falls somewhere between wasted pages and strange story choices.
Shibao’s art style is functional, reminding me of John Cassaday at times, and each panel looks good on its own. Where I ran into problems is the storytelling across multiple panels. Characters seem to change positions without reason, and become hard to follow. Other unintroduced people show up in panels then disappear in the next, never to be seen again. This made the main action set piece nearly unreadable. Some of the characters are drawn nearly identical as well, which only adds to the confusion.
It can be fun to explore these old pulp characters, but there are far better examples out there if you’re interested. While, the art itself is of a high standard the storytelling within it becomes hard to follow. With no relatable characters or motives, I didn’t feel like there were any stakes.