Publisher : BOOM Studios written by Mark Waid and art by Paul Azaceta. Due out September 12, 2007.
This comic read as one of the best first issues of any comic I have read in a long time. Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta in one issue depict the premise of the book, give us insights into the main character, set up mysteries, tell a complete story as well as set up a premise for next issue. The most disappointing element in this comic is that I want issue #2 now.
The premise is relatively straight forward, John Doe is our lead character and for reasons unknown he has made it his mission to find out who lies in the unmarked graves of Potter’s Field. We do not know who John Doe is or why he is doing this, but you are struck by the sense that he is one of the good guys, looking to help the most unfortunate among us, those who died without anyone knowing their name.
The story revolves John’s search in learning who is in one unmarked grave. We learn that John’s has operatives that help him in gathering information. During the course of the story we learn how he has developed at least one operative. Finally we learn the mystery of who lies in the grave. In solving the mystery John faces off with a bad guy and obtains justice for this one victim. It ends with someone approaching John Doe who is seeking his help.
In one issue we have the lead character introduced and outlined enough to make us know him on the surface, but curious as to what lies beneath. Why is he doing this, how does he keep his identity a secret (especially as his goal is to reveal the identities of those who died without a name) and how big is his organization?
The artwork is noir at its best. Where so many books have a dark and muddled look to hide the fact that the artist can’t draw, here we get that noir felling only when we are in a dark place, Paul’s work is a great fit for this book and provides great detail when needed and is appropriately moody and dark when needed.
This book sets up a premise that can be a series of mini-series, a great episodic TV show or a great premise for a series of movies.
BOOM seems to really be developing a line of true graphic novels from many different genres. Left on Mission is a terrific spy novel, Enigma Cipher an adventure where an every person is drawn into events beyond their control, 2 Guns a great caper story, Cover Girl an action adventure story, Fall of Cthulu dark horror stories, Hero Squared a super hero sitcom, Mr. Stuffins a wild adventures featuring a Teddy Bear as covert operative, Potter's Field a detective story and others.
I noticed that the trades are the smaller format trades, more like a paper back book then a full size book. I hope that since BOOM is aggressively pursuing the trade market that we will see this novella sitting in airport book stores and every where else. It is perhaps the beginning of an American Magna type movement. What I mean by this is that BOOM seems to understand that a great story done visually is not locked into any one genre. Crime story, murder mysteries, science fiction, spy stories, action adventure, comedy, etc. Any and all genres work as a graphic format. Instead a bookshelves at a Barnes & Noble overloaded with magna style books, I can see bookshelves full of these novellas. I can drop this books into anyone’s hands and say it is a great spy novel and they may try it. It is moving the comic book style of telling a story away from the stigma of being about super heroes only.
I also feel like the distribution network we have for comics and their like is an outdated concept. Just as the direct market was a response to what had happened to newsstand distribution, the one distributor model and direct market only approach is now outdated. I believe BOOM recognizes that and it trying to reach the market place with their product in a more dynamic manner.
With stories such as Potter’s Field and the rest, the only challenge is to get that wider audience to read just one or two of these novellas and they will seek out even more.
Really long tangent, but BOOM’s product line has me excited and I think these stories can sit along side any new James Patterson or Tom Clancy books and be as well received if they can get the market’s attention. Diamond and the direct market are not the answer, they are one source for sales only and in fact Diamond maybe a hindrance to true growth in the market. The future in my opinion to really open up comic style story telling to a wider audience lies with these type of stories and not more Batman and Spider-Man stories.