Albert, Amadeus, Kindred, Izzy, Marie. Remember those names. They are as integral to this story as, oh, Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland were to Flatliners. Or Ash and Ripley were to Alien. This is an ensemble story, I suppose even a sort of super-team book, but one unfolding with a realistic grounding in the dorm rooms of a technical college.
Which is a pretty interesting concept, underscored artfully by Filardi’s muted colors and Rubinstein’s indispensable inks. This comic looks great, and unlike others on the stands. Filardi goes for earth tones, and with Rubinstein’s distinctively gestural inking, we get the feeling of a 1970s documentary, all urban parks and bricks and concrete reflecting midday light.
It’s intriguing to see Bagley, unrepentantly a cartoonish illustrator, go for a slightly grittier feeling. It’s not a hit-and-a-miss, it’s a definite hit, it’s just an unusual direction, not really playing to his natural strengths (which were much more at home on his recent run on Justice League of America, which looked great despite the iffy stories), but also not out of his comfort range. Rubinstein provides the rough edges that actually give Bagley the understated tone called for. For example, there’s something beautifully coy and yet innocently direct about his image of Marie on the back cover (presumably next issue’s cover or splash page); she’s definitely become the ginger Julia Roberts of this story already.
And this issue she actually speaks. Not too much, but enough to show she’s one of the geniuses messing around with the potential of the human brain, not just the token hot girl. Bendis is never going to stray too far from sexist clichés, so in addition to Marie we also have Kira, a hipster nerd Kindred is attracted to who has yet to gain entrance to the inner circle; and Jennifer, a beautiful faculty member who for some reason had an affair with the immature Izzy (so judged because of the ridiculous Dr. Who scarf he sports everywhere). Plus she’s like twice his size.
Even the eloquent and thoughtful Albert is reduced to "You did her?" queries, which is really a slip as far as Bendis verisimilitude, as the emphasis in this case should really be on the two pronouns, not the verb.
The action this issue involves Amadeus again using his powers unwisely (but with a goal in mind). He’s apparently become a kind of junior Magneto, but the sequence where he bilks the system at a casino shows just how reckless and unsubtle these kids can be. They’re already in over their heads, which they intuit more than know. If Bendis keeps up the level of character work, however, we might still care when the really bad things start happening.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.