One of life’s essential truths is that, in some way, we all lead very hum-drum lives. This isn’t to say that they’re bad, meaningless, or unfulfilling; rather, it only underscores that most of our day-to-day existence is forever shackled to the ‘routine.’ We get up; we go to work; we come home; we have dinner; we go to bed; and it starts again with seeming freshness tomorrow. Instead of rejoicing in the habitual, it’s those sparks of unpredictable moments that fuel our desire to go on – an unexpected compliment, falling in love, putting money in the vending machine and surprisingly receiving two selections. It’s these events that we’ll remember clearly … and it’s these adventures that mark the cornerstone of good drama.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, I encourage you to then skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Devin Mackenzie – professional librarian and self-proclaimed master of the Dewey Decimal System – leads a day-in-day-out life. Never unhappy, she celebrates the routine, so much so that when her mother gives her a surprise (and thoughtful!) birthday gift – a puzzle cube that makes Rubik’s Cube look like tic-tac-toe – she can’t rest until she’s unlocked its mystery. However, the moment that she does, she finds herself catapulted into a life she never knew possible – on the run, being chased by thugs, and the costumed vigilante known only as ‘The Answer!’ her new traveling companion!
If the box office takes on such films as THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and THE AVENGERS are any indication, superhero stories will never go out of style. What will hopefully continue to change through the years will be who and how these noble do-gooders get their start. I’d imagine that it’s pretty tough to come up with something entirely fresh and different, but THE ANSWER! races out of the gate with a very solid first issue, compliments of creators Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton. Sure, there are parts of the tale that feel a bit obligatory – big city setting, heavily-armored thugs who can get anywhere, street heavies looking to throw over the local quik-e-mart – but, as debut issues go, the vigilante is left more than a bit mysterious.
Instead, the action is split roughly 50/50 with the set-up of the comely Devin Mackenzie’s life. She’s the perfect companion – bookishly attractive but oblivious to her charms, desperately single (and happy about it), and loves to get lost in puzzles and computer games – which should endear her to countless fanboys picking up this first issue and looking for something different but needing a story that feels familiar enough. To his credit, Norton’s artwork doesn’t cater to the absurd – his characters have clean lines, vivid colors, and easily distinguishable faces – which only further underscores the how easy it is to pick this installment up, take off at high speed, and enjoy the ride.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s a third story at work within these pages. Not only do we get the origins of the lady-in-trouble, not only do we get some first few glimpses at a new hero on the streets, but also we’re treated to the presentation of what appears to be some corporate motivational speaker. He’s opining on ideas that, clearly, tie in with both of these other characters (I won’t spoil), and it would appear that he might be linked to both in some way that only subsequent chapters can clarify. Just who and what he stands for could end up being something entirely unpredicted at this point, and who doesn’t love a good surprise?
This is pegged as the first part of four, and there are only a few hints at things to come – it would appear that there’s the making of a national conspiracy of closeted geniuses being sought for abduction or destruction – which almost begs the reader to ‘tune in next time.’ I’ll be there, mostly because I’ve always loved a good vigilante story. Vigilantes do what they do outside the law. They’re more concerned with the idea of ‘justice’ than are most police officers or detectives. Plus, give me a guy who does what he does with his smarts and brute strength, and it gives me a natural underdog to root for.
Also, any hero who shoots a thug straight in the crotch earns a point in my book.
THE ANSWER! is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton; the script is by Dennis Hopeless; the art is by Mike Norton; the colors are by Mark Englert; and the letters are by Crank! The issue bears a cover price of $3.99.
RECOMMENDED. Nothing groundbreaking or paradigm-shifting, THE ANSWER! is an old-fashioned tough guy story without all the hard-boiled sensibilities too often used in lieu of real plot and/or character development. (Think the films of Christopher Nolan on steroids or darn near anything done by Garth Ennis since his birth.) Here, the damsel in distress has enough established dimension and likeability to carry the day, so I’ll be happy to come back in thirty days to learn more about the man under the mask. Who knows? We just might rub off on one another.
In the interest of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of THE ANSWER! (Part 1 of 4) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.