Review: The Bounce #4

If nothing else, The Bounce by Joe Casey does what it says on the tin. It bounces around ... a lot, and without much direction. That doesn’t necessarily make it a “bad” book, but it does make it feel confused and uncentered, like Casey hasn’t figured out what he wants it to be or say yet. With a fairly uninspired premise (thus far) and over-produced characters, this title has deflected into what is a frustratingly aimless ricochet. That’s a shame, really, because I thought issue three was the beginning of a rebound for the book, after a noticeable injection of some interesting character poignancy and a renewed narrative direction, but now it feels like it’s running in place again. In issue four, we continue to follow slacker-hero Jasper as he explores what is behind the world’s increasing number of super-people, and how he fits within that emerging social dynamic.

This time, he fights a big, Spanish-speaking rock monster and talks to a psychic named Silver, both of which end with ambiguous results. Speaking of which, the book’s “big bad-elect” - Mr. Darling - continues to simmer just behind the curtain, while his technological attempts to “do something” (still not sure what) repeatedly fail. And that’s about it: with nothing ventured and thus, nothing gained, The Bounce remains a fairly  plodding origin story with little foundation or urge to surge forward.

Slow builds are fine if they actually bring something new to the table, but in this case, flawed, slacker superheroes have been around in comics for years, as have recreational drug use and so-called “alternative lifestyles.” In trying to capitalize on these already dated “edgy” themes, this book feels kinda pedestrian and out of touch, making a hell of a lot of noise without saying anything fresh or interesting. What pisses me off most, though, is that it could! This creative team is legit as shit, but this particular collaboration continues to frustrate by squandering its potential.

bounce04_coverThis book should be good, or at very least better than it is, but it lacks focus and drive, and seems content to be one more nondescript superhero book, lost amongst the indy shuffle. It sort of echoes the drive of the main character (or lack thereof), but not in a good way. Saying that, I have an idea where the team is going in this story, and if I’m right, when they do bridge that gap (so to speak), it could be a very, very interesting one. Until that happens, though, this continues to amble through cliché, which bleeds into the characterization in the book.

Every character in The Bounce comes burdened with purpose, but each is ultimately shallow, built with transparent quirks and tics that come across as forced and awkwardly hemmed into the story. The evil Mr. Darling drinks chocolate milk for example - that’s his thing - while our hero Jasper smokes a ton of pot and his roommate enjoys a spot of cross-dressing. That’s all well and good, but it’s like giving a character a scar, eye patch or sweet goatee, just because it looks cool and not because it defines them in any particular way. I’m still hoping that these small facets of the story will come together in some greater confluence, and again, I feel like these guys are capable of doing that, but given how long this book is taking to get to its point, I’m also beginning to have my doubts.

Most of the artwork remains solid, but this issue did show a bit of slack in the line, like it’s starting to feel rushed. Apart from a few weak costume designs, though, I thought the art was good. Another particular bright spot came from colorist Giovanna Niro, whose control of contrast between rainbow energy and bloody viscera is even-handed, while her colorful manifestation of new (and pretty random) character, The Vamp’s abilities was subtle and well-manicured.

The Bounce #4 ends with yet another hollow cliffhanger, and while I sometimes seriously contemplate dropping it altogether, I want to stick with it to see if Casey can turn it around. I want to like this book SO MUCH, but unless it picks up the pace and draws in its focus, The Bounce is going to end up falling flat.

Score: 2/5

Writer: Joe Casey

Artist: David Messina

Colorist: Giovanna Niro

Publisher: Image Comics

Price: $2.99

Release Date: 8/21/13