A new Palmiotti and Grey original drops this week, and that’s always a cause for celebration.
Hype, the new one-shot, is a super-hero story that has a couple of major twists. For one thing, the government created this super-being a kind of one-man counterterrorism force. For another, this synthetic man can only be awake for 45 minutes per day before he must return to his charging pod for recomposition. This artificial man, nicknamed Noah, has the emotional maturity of a child but he also has a cloistered relationship with his all-too-human handler, Amanda Marr.
There’s plenty of super-powered action and government intrigue in this book to keep the casual reader interested, but a lot of the emotional fuel for this book is in the life of Dr. Marr. As Palmiotti and Grey depict her, Marr is intellectually strong but emotionally weak. She is a woman with a strong professional life that includes well-attended TED talks. But she also has a rough personal life that includes deceased parents, a lack of close personal relationships, and a series of tough interactions with her brother. As Marr’s relationship with the hero grows, Dr. Marr also finds herself opening up and becoming more the person she wants to become.
The story of Noah and Dr. Marr is not quite a romance, because that would be strange and confusing for all involved. But the relationship does set a tone for this book that makes it more humanistic and more real. It also gives the book a fascinating sheen of emotional ambiguity. Does the friendship build between the two of them because Dr. Marr is safe with a man who is not human? Is Noah’s affection for Amanda a budding crush or does it reflection her parenting of him? Precisely what gap does Noah fill in Amanda’s life? When we have a genius female scientist literally falling into the hands of her dream man, their complex emotions can get extremely blurred.
That blurriness overlaps with the tremendous threat to the world posted by a group of terrorists who kidnap scientists to get them to create deadly pathogens. It’s easy to see Marr as one of those scientists who could have been abducted by the criminals (instead of by the CIA), and thus easy to see her struggle in this comic as a kind of mirror on an alternate life she could have been living.
The art by Javier Pina (best known for his work on Resurrection Man, Manhunter and Swamp Thing) delivers the goods with solid action and well-depicted character moments. His work is solid here, as you might expect, and he does a fine job of ensuring the story works on a human level. I would have liked to see him draw Dr. Marr a bit frumpier, instead of as a typical Hollywood style beauty, but Pina does a fine job providing quirks and complexities to Marr.
Palmiotti, Grey and Pina obviously planned Hype to be the first part of an ongoing series. That means much of this issue spotlights the growing relationship between the characters and the way they learn to communicate with each other. I enjoyed that human element and the confusion Noah feels at the complexity of the real world (though I felt confused about how he couldn’t know anything about childbirth, as revealed in one key scene). Future chapters should have some of the few bugs worked out. I’m looking forward to seeing how these characters grow.
Purchase Hype at Barnes & Noble.