The first six pages will hook you. You can find these pages across the internet if you just search for the preview pages (*See Below). The entire comic needs to live up to those six pages. The first six pages are simple but feel like they tell so much about this story. An unnamed man walks towards a beautiful lake. He then strips off his clothes and pours gasoline over himself. He begins to sob, and begs for permission to stop. A panel of red and black tells the man he must continue. The man then lights himself on fire and walks into the beautiful lake.
That is the hook. Most of the issue completely ignores the hook. Instead of trying to explain what just happened, we get even more mysteries, more unanswered questions. And I love it.
Just in the first issue we have four scenes with their own mysteries and questions raised. First there is the man who burns himself. Then we have two special agents after a serial killer named the American Spirit. Next there is Lady Satan (possibly the best name ever), a fraudulent fortune-teller who has a rough night after a rough couple of days. Finally we have a man who is in witness protection for seeing too much.
Anyone of these stories could make for an excellent story. An entire issue could have been dedicated to each sequence and been raved about. Instead we get just a few fleeting pages with each character. Warren Ellis capably makes each voice unique and interesting. Ellis' ear for dialogue is seen throughout the issue. Little asides, banter, and smart interesting characters permeate this book. There is a minimalist amount of word bubbles in this book. The art tells as much of the story as the words do. They work together in harmony, and we need to recognize it more often when it happens. This is two great artists collaborating.
The book is oozing with mood thanks to the gorgeous art of Colton Worley. There is a cool cross hatch/sketch quality to the work that makes each image feel raw and dark without being needlessly gritty. The opening six pages happen during sun set. The colors of the sky are bright and vibrant, and if you just removed the man struggling with whatever force is controlling him the pages would be cheerfully rustic. Yet there is no artistic contrast between the figures and the world around them. They fit in this world even as horrible and odd things happen. The horrors and mysteries of the world don't have to happen at night or in the dankest darkest recesses. This is a world where the darkness is also in the light.
First issues don't need to explain everything. They need to introduce the world, the characters, and the plot. We as readers should not expect everything tied up into a little bow right away. Blackcross #1 is setting up an interesting world. There are things happening that feel like the connection between the disparate story bits is just right outside of your reach. The strange and mysterious are before us, we just need to step into Blackcross and hope we can find the answers.
Project Superpowers: Blackcross #1 Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Colton Worley Colorist: Morgan Hickman Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/4/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital