Comics has an accessibility problem. After decades of existence some books can be really hard to ease into. That’s why the infamous “jumping on point” was created — single issues designed to garner new readers and lure back old fans. Each week brave surveyors Luke Miller and Jamil Scalese will venture into the comics abyss and let you, the consumer, know just which series are worth JUMPING ON, and which are better left to be revisited at a later date.
(Caitlin Kittredge; Steven Sanders)
Jamil: Alright, I can’t help myself, so I’ll get this over with now: Is Throwaways a throwaway?
The first issue of this Image title impressively packs a lot into its first installment. We’re immediately introduced to the series’ co-leads, two confused souls named Dean and Abby who are mysteriously connected by a secret government program operated out of a placed called Camp Cheshire. Writer Caitlin Kittredge does a fine job of keeping their respective pasts shrouded while also introducing the reader to the basic outline of their characters. The basic gist? Dean is something of a gutter punk with telekinesis (and possibly telepathy) powers, and Abby is a young troubled veteran with Jason Bourne-like abilities and a thirst to uncover a conspiracy.
Kittredge throws a good amount of curves into the story, there are at least two scenes I found legitimately shocking, and artist Steven Sanders does a superb job making this story dynamic and fun. The way he depicts violence is refreshing, especially in the static medium of comics. There’s a bit of a contradiction in that action stories, a large portion of the industry’s subject material, are unable to show movement. Sanders does some neat things in this issue, like the scene where Charles shoots up the vet support group meeting, or when Abby dispatches a group of special agents by “flowing” through them. Stuff like that really kept me engaged.
That last sentence implies that there was something that was taking me out of the story, and I gotta admit the dialogue was not doing it for me. While the backstories and outward appearances of the characters are adequately diverse I found just about every character who spoke, even the hidden ones (like whoever “activated” Abby at the beginning) to be so overtly snarky that I had trouble really forming a distinct voice for each of them in my head. I mean everyone has a clever line or comeback here, no one is demur or polite or upbeat. Part of that is the tone of the story, it’s pretty dark and cynical, but this was trying to achieve something only Kevin Smith has been has been able to pull off, a homogeneous tone of wit and sarcasm shared by the entire cast. Without the benefit of another element comics lacks, sound, I feel like an otherwise strong story may have stumbled at the start line.
Luke: I was also going to compare this to the Jason Bourne franchise. Except it has a character with superpowers, something that was a glaring omission in the Bourne films. Unfortunately that’s all I really took away from this book. The characters all felt somewhat flat to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it – if it was the tone or the voice or just the general plot, but nothing really grabbed me with this issue.
I think it’s because when I say I was reminded of the Bourne movies, I was really reminded of them. This book shares all the positives and negatives of those films without the benefit of being a novel concept. Black-ops Manchurian Candidates with superpowers – that sounds like a grab bag of cliches that are hard to parse out into a coherent story.
The action was nice. The intrigue was nice. The art was nice. I even thought the dialogue flowed fairly well. The trouble for me was the plot. Throwaways walks a razor’s edge of keeping things shrouded in mystery while trying to further the plot. This issue just had too much shrouding for my tastes. I had no idea what was really going on (which I think was the point) but I also don’t really care to find out what is going on (which probably misses the mark.) There simply wasn’t a high enough page count to get me interested in these characters while still doing all of the “what’s going on here?” moments. This probably would’ve worked better with previously established characters – imagine Wolverine having another Weapon X amnesia episode again and, oh, I don’t know, Magneto or Cyclops or Beast getting sucked in because of heretofore unknown experimentation done on them. I’m already invested in that story because I know the characters. It’s one of the few shortcomings/massive challenges of an doing an indie book where the writer has to make the reader care about the characters immediately. Throwaways fell a little short of doing that.
Jamil: I will forever be in awe of the way a great story embeds its characters into my heart almost immediately. You’re right, Throwaways #1 doesn’t achieve that tough task. Despite both being pro-level quip slingers Dean and Abby are different enough to be interesting, but it feels like they’re a hodgepodge of tropes and not-too-original quirks.
The plot and setting share that quality. I like the paramilitary spy-op subgenre, but the hook here is not very clear, even by the end of the issue, I thought this was building to some type of street-level X-Men thing, but then it turned into a kind of revenge-quest team-up, almost like an inverse buddy cop flick. There’s a nugget of novelty there, and it could grow into something great, but that remains to be seen.
I’m not too sure about this series, Luke. The creative team makes an earnest attempt but I was a touch irritated by the first issue, both in substance and execution.
Luke: I’m a little worried that it sounds like we’re criticizing this creative team for trying something new. I applaud them for that. My criticism is that there seems to be a lot going on without a lot of cohesion tying it all together. Yeah, stuff is happening, and yeah, it’s vaguely interesting, but without strong characterization and with so many other options on the shelf, I can’t really give a compelling reason to come back to this.
However, if you’re a person who likes to read a story just for the larger plot, this might be your style. I also imagine it will read better as a trade as both the plot and the characters flesh out, but as a monthly serialized story, Throwaways isn’t a title I’m going to be jumping on.