Small­town Boy

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! Pub­lisher Im­age Comics

Writer Mark Mil­lar

Artist Rafael Al­bu­querque

“Sweet” isn’t a word that’s of­ten used to de­scribe a Mark Mil­lar comic. From the hy­per- vi­o­lent worlds of Kick- Ass and Neme­sis to the po­lit­i­cal su­per­heroics of The Ul­ti­mates, Mil­lar’s most prom­i­nent hall­marks have usu­ally been but­ton- push­ing nas­ti­ness and at­ti­tude- heavy snark.

How­ever, projects like Su­pe­rior and Starlight have shown he’s ca­pa­ble of pulling off sto­ries with gen­uine heart, and his lat­est Im­age minis­eries goes even fur­ther by heav­ily sam­pling the films of Frank Capra. The di­rec­tor of the 1946 Christ­mas clas­sic It’s A Won­der­ful Life, Capra spe­cialised in heart- warm­ing tales of small- town Amer­ica, and here Mil­lar re­works the ba­sic plot of Capra’s 1936 film Mr Deeds Goes To Town to cre­ate the off­beat tale of an un­likely hero.

De­scribed as “a lit­tle slow” by his fel­low towns­folk, the tit­u­lar Huck is a big, sweet guy who grew up an or­phan, and pos­sesses in­cred­i­ble su­per­pow­ers. Huck uses these pow­ers to qui­etly do good deeds, and the town keeps his abil­i­ties se­cret to pro­tect him. When a new­comer to the town outs Huck to the me­dia, his good na­ture is sud­denly at risk of be­ing ex­ploited by op­por­tunis­tic politi­cians, while fig­ures from Huck’s past are also out to track him down…

Mil­lar’s sto­ry­telling is as sharply crafted as ever, and his de­ci­sion to com­bine Capra- es­que sen­ti­ment with su­per­heroics is of­ten sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive. These first three is­sues fea­ture beau­ti­fully ren­dered set­pieces, and Amer­i­can Vam­pire artist Rafael Al­bu­querque is an ideal col­lab­o­ra­tor, bring­ing gor­geous vis­ual tex­tures to the story while stylishly han­dling both ac­tion and di­a­logue.

He’s also not afraid to push into car­i­ca­ture with some of the more ob­vi­ously evil char­ac­ters, and this is matched by Mil­lar’s un­apolo­get­i­cally ma­nip­u­la­tive ap­proach. Huck is an af­fect­ing and im­me­di­ately sym­pa­thetic lead, and the story is at its strong­est when fo­cused on the small- scale na­ture of Huck’s world.

At its best, this feels like a fresh take on su­per­pow­ers in an over­sat­u­rated mar­ket. Un­for­tu­nately, the fresh­ness doesn’t last long enough. From is­sue two on­wards, Mil­lar rapidly ex­pands the scope of the story while also ex­plor­ing Huck’s past, and as more typ­i­cal su­per­hero sto­ry­telling el­e­ments are in­tro­duced, the story grad­u­ally heads in a di­rec­tion that’s dis­ap­point­ingly rou­tine and over- fa­mil­iar. It’s still an en­joy­able tale with a charm­ing vis­ual style, but it’s hard not to feel that Huck had the po­ten­tial to be some­thing a lit­tle more dis­tinc­tive and spe­cial, rather than just an­other Mark Mil­lar su­per­hero story. Saxon Bul­lock

The story heads in a di­rec­tion that’s over­fa­mil­iar

Mark Mil­lar’s next up­com­ing comics pro­ject is space opera minis­eries Em­press. Is­sue one ar­rives in April.

Watch out for any low bridges.

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