Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert are back this month with Translucid and they brought along promising newcomer Daniel Bayliss. This issue is an excellent lead-in to a limited series, and I’m excited for the places they can go with it. In Team Translucid’s version of New York City, crime is ruled by The Horse and his lessers, the Apocalypse 3 (The Colonial, The Noble Savage, and The Monarch), and the force holding back their tide of villainy is a man known as The Navigator. Our story begins with The Horse getting released and exonerated after a short stint on the inside, and going back to take what’s his—and teach his nemesis a little something about what makes them tick.
The story itself is better than I expected. We as readers get pretty jaded about this kind of story and think it’s just going to be a rehash of The Killing Joke with fairly obvious Batman and Joker stand-ins, but Translucid moves beyond that. They inhabit a very real and recognizable city, which makes it just that much more believable, if the gadgets and the outfits are a little less so. It’s also not quite so insular as the other stories like this; it seems like it will play out to be a two-hander between The Navigator and The Horse, but it shows glimpses of other lives throughout the city, it gives us breathing room.
I’ve never been nearly as sold on Sanchez’s writing as his music. I found the Amory Wars comics to be, if anything, more confusing than the lyrics in Coheed & Cambria’s music. I’ve never read his writing with wife and writing partner Echert, but I enjoyed it a lot in this issue. They’ve got a pretty good handle on getting exposition out of the way in favor of action, and they do a good job setting up the whole story while telling a contained issue, which is a skill unto itself.
I don’t really know what the endgame is with the child they flash back and forth to in this issue. The way it’s put into the issue in terms of the pacing, I think we’re supposed to believe it’s The Navigator, but I’m also not sold on that. I have my own suspicions, but the final panel makes me think that maybe it’s not related in any significant way, but more of a thematic tether from the Horse/Navigator arc into the real world and the way it affects every day New Yorkers.
What really jumped out and grabbed me was Bayliss’ art. I’m a stranger to him, but fellow Bastard Steve pointed me in the direction of “The Deal,” a Batman and Joker story Bayliss illustrated and put on his blog last November. His art in Translucid is a lot more polished, while dealing with similar themes, and I just love the way he’s attacking it. His color palette is entirely unnatural, with lots of neon pinks and hi-liter yellows; his character designs are loose where they need to be and incredibly detailed on things like The Horse’s head. Speaking of character designs, it strikes me that the character I kept seeing in the previews for this issue who I thought was The Horse actually turned out to be The Navigator. For a hero, he’s very menacing, with a mask shaped more like a stylized, eyeless skull, and a cape that’s ragged at the edges and has certainly seen better days. Meanwhile, The Horse wears a meticulous suit and a lot of whites. It’s a cheap artistic choice, but it’s one that works here very well.
This explosion ends about a panel too late for me, leaving me with a final image that I don’t quite know what to do with, or how to extrapolate from it. In terms of the issue as a whole, though, I’m intrigued where they’re going to take this. The Horse made some moves that he can’t possibly take back, and The Navigator let him do it for his own sake. It’s a moral quandary, and it’s one that I can’t wait for Team Translucid to tackle.
Writers: Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert Artist: Daniel Bayliss Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/16/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital