Will Lill Comics’ newest book, Mercury, is a traditional superhero book that aspires to a Watchmen-like subversion, but ends up being more run-of-the-mill superhero adventure. The book begins in 1978 with the final battle of Mercury’s life, as he faces off against his archenemy, Nemesis. Nemesis has just killed a handful of hoodlums for vague and unaddressed reasons, and he and Mercury engage in a protracted philosophical discussion before they get down to the punches. The action shifts to “eight months ago” when a young man puts himself in harm’s way to save a little girl, and is offered the chance of a lifetime by a man he thought was only a professor.
There’s a lot going on in Mercury, given that it’s only a standard-sized issue. It jumps into three separate time periods and there are a few heavy action sequences, but rather than that making the issue feel like a hearty meal, it makes you feel kind of scatterbrained. There’s no time to live in a sequence, aside from that first philosophical debate between Mercury I and Nemesis. For most of the issue, it feels like the story is jumping around and making sure you know everything, rather than beginning the story where it starts, which happens in the last six or seven pages. Instead of getting plot beats, we get the whole story, and the pacing is thrown off entirely. For example, the book begins immediately after Nemesis has killed some people—we don’t know why he killed them other than for things they might go on to do, we just know that he killed them and we get a long argument instead of an action scene to grab us.
Makinen and Addlesee’s art is an interesting choice for this book. Together, they have a very traditional style, almost in the vein of Mary Perkins on Stage or an old Modesty Blaise book, where everyone has a square, chiseled jaw and perfect upper lips. It leads to some of their characters looking very same-y, but it’s also a much cleaner style than I’m used to in independent books like this one. My only complaint, really, is that occasionally Makinen’s layouts are confusing—two panels that are catty-corner to each other are allowed to bleed into each other, although they’re not connected. It’s not an unsolvable problem, it just makes the reading process grind a little bit.
I do want to specifically shout out to Susan Dorne: her letters were on point for this entire issue, and at moments when it could have seemed amateurish, she really nailed it and sold a lot of the plot points of the book on the strength of her professionalism.
On the whole, this is not a book I would continue with. The story is too much of a thinly-veiled riff on the Flash and Watchmen-style superhero-disillusionment without anything new to add the conversation. It was a warning sign that the Editor-In-Chief for the book was Allen Smithee—this book doesn’t seem like it’s anyone’s baby, it just reads like a paint-by-numbers superhero book. In the end, capable, but airless.
Mercury #1 Writer: Lloyd Smith Penciller: Seppo Makinen Inker: Steven R. Addlesee Letterer: Susan Dorne Publisher: Will Lill Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: October 2015 Format: Print/Digital