ADVANCE REVIEW! Idolized #1 will go on sale Wednesday, August 8, 2012.
Imagine it: a seven-year-old girl sees her parents and sister callously murdered right in front of her, the innocent victims of an arbitrary battle between two superhero teams. Though Leslie has powers, she acts too late to save her family from getting killed as peripheral damage from the battle. Because of her inaction to save her family, Leslie appears fated to carry massive guilt on her shoulders forever
Until an unexpectedly opportunity drops into Leslie's life. New reality TV show Superhero Idol is looking for new heroes to join the greatest super-team in her world, and now Leslie has the chance to seek her sweet, sweet revenge.
I really wanted to like this comic, but its main ideas just didn't ring true to me.
First, Leslie talks about her origin story in front of an American Idol-style audition panel. It was established earlier in the comic that hundreds of super-powered people were trying out for the show, which implies that super-heroes are ubiquitous in this world. That point is reinforced during the origin story when Leslie describes her world as a place full of "larger-than-life, swashbuckling daredevils flying around, displaying unbelievable power, rescuing people, saving the world."
If heroes are that ubiquitous, and the Superhero Idol folks are so plugged into the massive fame and popularity of superheroes in this world, then why does Leslie feel the need to describe their ubiquity? These are clearly the most famous and infamous people in this world, not dissimilar to movie stars, so why the need to describe the fame and fortune of these characters to people who already know those facts? That would be a lot like someone describing the popularity of Brad Pitt's movies to someone in the real world. Any reasonable person would know these facts already, and they simply read as an info dump for the reader rather than dialogue that advances story or character.
Secondly, why do the Idol hosts listen so long to Leslie's story? Presumably the sorts of horrific events that she describes can't be that uncommon in this world. After all, if so many people have super-powers, the possibility for similar accidents has to be extremely high; there must be many people who have been killed by the faceless superpowered beings who inhabit this world. Her story would have to be fairly unremarkable to the hosts — and while you can imagine FOX playing up the pathos of Leslie's story to gain her more votes in the final rounds of Idol, you can also see the hosts of the show growing bored quickly with Leslie's story.
If you put aside those complaints, though, this is a pretty decent comic book otherwise. I did want to learn more about Leslie, to see her strive to triumph through the contests of Idol, and watch her seek her revenge. She has the power of good and justice on her side, and it will be enjoyable to see Leslie pursue her goals. She's definitely a sympathetic character.
There may also be more to Leslie's story than is immediately obvious. She seems to have small hints of a more complex, darker side to her than we initially see in this issue. There may be more going on in Leslie's internal world than we directly see in this issue, and I'd like to see Schwartz explore that side of our lead character. How far will she go in order to get her revenge, and will she still be a hero when she finally exercises that revenge?
Micah Gunnell's art is the more compelling part of this book for me. His storytelling skills are solid and professional in this book, and certain scenes are especially well-framed. The scene where Leslie first steps on the Idol stage to tell her story, for instance, is told in a smartly designed establishing shot that shows how small Leslie feels in comparison to the events around here. It's a really effective way to convey Leslie's fear while also establishing the key moment of the story up to that time. Holy crap indeed.
Another really effective scene happens several pages later when we first witness a giant super-hero battle in the skies above New York. Gunnell does a nice job of conveying the terrifyingly distant super-hero action in the city as a virtual battle between gods, a strange, unrelatable, impossibly distant event that terrifies civilians and frames our heroine and her family in its strangeness. The family looks up at the heroes with a mix of admiration and fear, which, again, effectively sets the stage for the action to come later in the story. While it feels like we've seen scenes similar to this in books like Astro City, this scene still feels specific and particular to Idolized.
It's always hard to judge a comic based on its first issue, and many of the things I complain about will probably slip to the background in future issues. But I thought Idolized #1 had some nice art and scene setting along with some fairly ordinary writing. I hope we can move away from the awkwardness of this first issue and move into some interesting explorations of reality TV and superheroes, and that David Schwarts and Micah Gunnell can deliver a winning comic in future issues.