Monkeybrain Review: Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver

Louis Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool. Catch him at San Diego Comic Con!

The most satisfying aspect of story for myself as a fan and a reviewer has to be the element of surprise. It’s why I fell in love hard with movies like Attack The Block and Chronicle, shows like Breaking Bad, and god help me it’s why Millar’s early Ultimates work rocked so bloody hard. Anyone who engages in enough culture devouring will eventually come to feel jaded. There’s just so much unoriginal crap in the world that we forget about that moment when a story does that-thing, the moment when it turns around, when Xavier stammers out, “Why is that map upside down?” and Xorn removes his helmet, what little bleeder’s would probably lovingly refer to as that “punch the sky and shout yes” moment.

When I started Chris Roberson’s Edison Rex (Out exclusively on ComiXology) after the first few panels I (foolishly) thought to myself “Oh I know where this is going”. This is due to two facts: I didn’t pay attention to the title of the book, “Presenting: The Final Showdown Between VALIANT PROTECTOR OF EARTH & His Archnemesis EDISON REX CRIMINAL GENIUS!”. The second fact is I think I’m so smart. I may not actually be that smart, but damned if I don’t think so.

Our story begins with a superheroic Superman stand-in, the titular VALIANT who honestly looks and acts far more like Waid’s Plutonian, flying into the secret headquarters of the book’s star, gray haired and brawny Edison Rex (Criminal Genius). Edison looks like the hate child of Tom Strong and Kirkman’s Destroyer and behaves like he was raised by Lex Luthor. These comparisons aren’t out of right field, Roberson wears his influences on his sleeve as Edison walks Valiant through his base, explaining to him how he’s discovered the true origin of the hero and what his real purpose on Earth is.

It should be noted that Edison’s secret lair is a cross between Spider Skull Island and the Bat Cave. Every secret lair that anyone ever creates will always be trying to live up to the perfection that is Dick Sprang’s “Secrets of the Batcave”, so the best that one can shoot for is to not merely mime the masterwork but instead to use it as the springboard, which has clearly been done with loving attention and post-modern fun. And by post-modern fun I of course mean the death booth.

I think it’s curious to note that obvious comparisons here between Edison & Valiant and Luthor & Superman given Roberson’s recent public falling out with DC Comics over their treatment of creators and creators’ rights. I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you that in 1 issue Roberson finishes a rivalry that DC has been unable (or far more than likely unwilling) to finish between their analogous characters in 80+ years. Fellow DC discontent, George Perez helped hammer the idea of Luthor as would be hero through Alexander Luthor 25+ years ago and Roberson has taken this simple idea and run with it.

The book takes the villain turned hero concept and brings it to a smart and fun new beginning. The artwork is crisp and inventive, especially when using the comiXology app on a smart phone. A dialog between Edison & Valiant is literally separated by panels of silver age glory (by way of Astro City). Again, this book wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve, which some people will dismiss as unoriginal and fail to realize that originality isn’t only coming up with SOME NEW THING that’s completely unattached to everything else (and is totally impossible to boot) but it’s being able to do new things with what you have, with what the culture has and already draws their ideas from. That’s why Edison Rex is so winning and satisfying, because it feels familiar but it doesn’t. Also it’s really nice to see a character who looks like The Plutonian who’s not eating babies or incinerating cities (I get Plutonian confused with Ennis’ Homelander. Cross over anyone?!?!?).

When you get to the end of the book it’s not clear whether or not Edison’s story is true but doesn’t really matter. The book moves from superhero pop art, to silver age nostalgia to genuine copper age ennui, allowing artist Dennis Culver to really shine in depicting the shocked and genuinely freaked out face of an Edison who’s plan actually worked.

What begins as just another cape and cowls story, quickly hits you (and Edison) with enough shocks and surprises to make it a memorable new read and one that I’ve already found holds up under rereads (on to my third!).

The book is a winner, it’s my first experience with both comiXology and Monkeybrain publishing and it’s been a great on both sides of the coin, program and content. Monkeybrain and comiXology have a whole new slate of books that you can only find on comiXology and if Edison Rex is indicative of the quality of the rest of the titles, it’s going to be a great time to be a comiXology user.