Warren Ellis used to bemoan the grip the superhero comic book had on much of the commercial comic industry, comparing it to the hypothetical situation where 90% of all books sold in bookshops were nurse novels. Oh, there would be some works of genius there, plenty of new twists on the form, but they were all nurse novels. And wouldn’t it be nice to read a thriller, a political conspiracy or a slice-of-life romcom without the protagonist by commercial dictat having to be a nurse?
It was a fun rant, but it didn’t really touch me. I guess I’m just a fan of nurses.
And also the medium of comics just seems to be so, so suited to superheroes. In other media, the only way to stop them looking awful is to spend a lot of money on them. So the stories have to be focussed grouped to death in order to guarantee a return. And while the best, Iron Man, Dark Knight, Watchmen, Spider-Man 2, are certainly enjoyable films, the best of the superhero comics still beat them by a league. They’re much more likely to be products of an independent mind, and the further they get from the corporate machines, the more experimental, interesting and political they can get.
They are still power fantasies, but rather than that of a young adolescent boy wanting to wreak vengeance on schoolyard bullies, the superhero comic can address power fantasies of those who feel helpess in today’s society, in a world fed by overhyped media, underdressed superstars, overpaid executives and underwhelming pay packets.
That’s the world that Absolution is dealing in. A superhero who, despite all his powers, feels helpless against society. And chooses another option.
Christos wears his crime TV show experience here on his sleeve, not just in the courtroom scenes, but also those of a couple discussing their day. Some comic writers eschew those moments, that TV uses so well, this feels like a balanced hybrid. This juxtaposes insanely well with the violent, flashy, superheroic scenes. Comparisons to Dexter seem well drawn.
As indeed does much of the comic. Panels are drawn with economy and grace, with a strong eye for weight and presence on the page. The first page especially sees a sofa thrown with conviction. This is so very important when you have a character creating objects from will alone, and has been a trap some Green Lantern comics have fallen into.
Absolution is not a particularly new idea in comics. But it is told with skill, economy and grace. So far it’s clearly not as controversial a superhero comic as some of its contemporaries like Black Summer and The Boys. But if you want a more down-to-earth Irredeemable, then this is probably perfect.
The zero issue is but a prologue. An introduction scene, set set up the tones, themes, characters and direction of the comic. But I defy you not to want to pick up the first issue after this.
Absolution #0 at $1.99 is available today in the USA and tomorrow in the UK. Other territories may vary. It is published by owner of BleedingCool, Avatar Press.