Monday, March 28, 2005

Advance review - Scar Tissue #1

Scar Tissue #1 has a cover date of July 2005, so I’m fairly sure what I hold in my hands is an advance copy. It’s being released by Ronin Studios, with J. Andrew Clark writing, and David Wachter doing all of the art except the colors, which Brent Wachter handles.

I’m not sure how to discuss the book without getting into some spoilers, so be warned.

Scar Tissue is a book about a regular Joe (named Ben) who ends up in a hospital after being turned into an “innocent bystander” during an epic fight between a Superman fill-in named The Compatriot and his arch-nemesis, a green-skinned evil dude named Grundoom. Ben receives a heart transplant under mysterious circumstances, and heals at an unprecedented speed, ultimately discovering he’s developed super-powers and, finally, that he’s been given the slain Grundoom’s heart.

I hate to say it, but I didn’t really like this book much. I thought the concept was trite and the execution, while perfectly competent, was mediocre.

From a technical standpoint, my only gripe is with the coloring. The palette Wachter uses is attractive and appropriate enough, but the pencils regularly include a row of teeth on characters’ expressions, and about a third of the time it seems like the teeth are the same color as the lips. It’s amateurish and distracting, and it would never happen on color flatter Josh Richardson’s watch.

I thought the characters were cliché. Ben resists the Great Responsibility that obviously comes with the Great Power he’s been given, wanting only to live a normal life. Now, there’s nothing unreasonable about that, and I can certainly sympathize with the character, but that’s all we get; there’s nothing more specific, no hook, nothing really unique about him. Ben’s uncle – yes, his uncle, who’s taken care of Ben since Ben’s parents died and done his very best – hides the truth behind Ben’s mysterious benefactor, worried that the truth will be too upsetting, and basically mothers the hell out of him; again, understandable and realistic, but uninteresting to me.

I did kind of enjoy Ben’s brother Carl, who got a few good “boy-he’s-dumb” gags, including one about congenital heart disease, and has an interesting scene at the end of the book, in which he prepares breakfast for his ailing brother. Maybe I’m not quite putting my finger on it, but there’s something interesting about a family of three men, and the act of making breakfast for someone else somehow conjures a male/female relationship in my mind – the fact that it’s two men lends a neat spin on their relationship. Whatever it was, that closing scene held my interest most of any parts in the book, and if Ben’s family relationships are explored more in subsequent issues, it might develop into a book I enjoy more than I did this first issue. I don’t get the feeling that the book is headed in that direction, though.

No, this seems like a pretty dedicated super-hero book, and I think that may be where it loses me. I can still enjoy super-hero comics, and they don’t even have to be weird – as much as I like twists on the genre like Sleeper or She-Hulk, I still really enjoy straight-ahead costume comics like Astonishing X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man and Invincible. But one thing those books need to do is provide interesting action, and I wasn’t really excited by what I saw here; in a contstruction yard, a big steel girder falls on Ben, bending around him and thudding to the ground when he stands up – it’s pretty cool, and the visuals are exciting, but I knew exactly what would happen from the moment the scene opened, four pages earlier. Its predictability neutralizes its impact.

Again, though, I’m not the right audience for this book. This is aimed at a younger reader than me, a reader who wants a little more cartoony moralism and creepy, alien-looking bad guys in green robes, who get excited by wondering just what peril Ben will survive on the construction yard – they know something’s gonna happen, and the fun of it is finding out what and when. This book would have fit on my reading list a lot better when it also included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and McFarlane’s work on Spidey. If you’re looking for something along those lines, this will be worth your time at least to pick up and take a look. It's just not the kind of thing that interests me much anymore.

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