“New Kid on the Planet”
Writers: Donald Mustard, Bill Jemas & Rob Worley
Artists: Arthur Dela Cruz (l) Cliff Richards (p), Dennis Crisotomo (i)
Plot: Um … okay. So there’s these two brothers. They’ve just moved with mom and dad to a new planet. Dad’s a big-shot rich guy who figured out how to mount asteroids on anti-grav plates and float them down to the planet to help mine ore or something.
The two brothers have these cool four-wheelers. They ride them around.
All the other kids on the planet are pretty much skater punks who ride left-over anti-grav plates as hoverboards.
Big brother is a cadet captain or something, and he’s supposed to whip some other high schoolers into shape at this academy sort of place. They fight with sticks.
Little brother is a wallflower who gets all twitterpated with the first hot girl he meets. Oh yeah, and according to some articles that came out earlier this year on a bunch of comic book news sites, he’s going to grow up to be the hero of some video game that just came out for X-Box.
Ready to buy the rest of this 6-issue miniseries yet?
Puzzled Commentary: Well, here it is, the first product from Bill Jemas’ new company 360ep. (Anybody know how I’m supposed to pronounce that?) And it’s … well … it’s got hand-drawn pictures and voice balloons and has a sexy Greg Horn cover. Oh yeah, and Jemas thinks the story/script/layout/pencil team is kind of like Bendis and Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man, I guess because this book, too, is about some high school kids. Just like that Spider book.
Well, except, no, Advent Rising is nothing like USM. Not in the caliber of art, not in the resonance of teen characterization, not in the way Ultimate Spider-Man actually set up a storyline right off the bat in issue #1. And Advent Rising took twice as many people to produce half as much interesting stuff.
In fact, I find myself blathering on about what Advent Rising #1 is not … because there’s just so little that it is. Maybe somebody who had a clue what the video game is all about would be excited to see how this prequel story unfolds, just itching to see the nascent hero Gideon Wyeth come into his own. But for everybody else – and third-person shooter ignoramuses like me – the book you hold in your hands introduces nothing of suspense or intrigue to the story. There are no subplots, no ominous foreshadowing of what’s to come, no sci-fi world building concepts that establish any sort of universe I might possibly be intrigued to visit again.
The art is pure vanilla, with neither the magnificently desolate sparseness of a remote planet you might expect to see from a John Cassaday, nor the richly detailed futuristic gadgetry of a sci-fi epic drawn by a Jim Lee. Instead, it falls in a boring middle ground, with too little detail to catch your eye, and not enough atmosphere to evoke any opposite sensation of gripping loneliness. If the Greg Horn babe on the cover (I think she even appears in the book) makes you pick this up off the rack, the flip-through will almost certainly make you put it back.
The writing commits the cardinal sin of telling, not showing, what’s interesting about this world and these characters. And the dialogue is as tasty as low sodium Saltines. After the box has been left open for a couple of days.
The book is apparently two issues for the price of one, and that’s good, because when the first half ends, there’s nothing to make you want to come back for more … except for the fact that issue #2 begins on the next page. The back half actually sees some activity (I hesitate to use the word “action”) that begins to trickle out some of the wit and pluckiness of the two brothers, but it all comes far too late to make me really care. By the end of the book, I know nothing about what’s in store down the road.
Are there going to be bad guys? Is there going to be a space battle? Does anyone on this hum-drum world have nasty secrets I’m going to be wondering about until next month?
Or is the whole point of this mini-series just going to be watching he-who-will-grow-up-to-star-in-a-video-game learn how to balance on a hoverboard so he can hang out with the Greg Horn babe and her loser punk friends?
Perhaps the most damning thing about the book is that, as I was reading it, I was actively trying to find ways to be charitable about it, hoping something would capture my imagination. But it just doesn’t aim that high. It’s a book laden by its own smallness, strolling along its utterly pedestrian plotline from A to B to C with, frankly, embarrassing naivete. I can’t say yet that it is an example media tie-in franchising at its worst, because that would mean I was somehow moved by my experience between the covers. Instead, it’s practically already forgotten.
Jemas said in an interview a few months back (attached to the advance preview copy I received) that 360ep decided to release their inaugural product as a double-length packaging of issues #1 and #2 because they thought their plan to release variant covers just wasn’t cool enough. Um, well, I think the real reason was that issue #1 alone wasn’t cool enough. Guess what? Neither is issue #2. Tasty as tap water.
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