As a follower of all things occult in nature, I’ve always been intrigued by psychic powers. Are they real? Do they exist in our universe? Where do they come from? Can they be fostered and/or developed with practice? What do they secretly say about ourselves as a species? The questions are endless, and that’s why folks with psychic abilities – precognition or telekinesis or whatever – tend to populate some of the more interesting movies, TV shows, or books available these days. In contemporary times, certainly THE X FILES and FRINGE have made some respectable mileage out of investigating the phenomenon, and, in the recent past, shows like NIGHT GALLERY and THE TWILIGHT ZONE did the same.
When it comes to comic books, however, psychic abilities never really get front-page treatment (or, at least, that’s been my opinion). What tends to happen more often than not is secondary characters are empowered with some measure of psychic ability, and then – in true secondary character fashion – they end up being relegated to only ‘that use’ so far as the story gets explored.
Dark Horse’s BRAIN BOY suitably fills that void, bringing in a psy-powered character to the front and center of the action. It brings a very modern real-world spin on the psychic phenom, and, as first issues go, it’s pretty spectacular.
(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, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
After the death of his parents (perhaps an all-too-predictable component to yet another ‘hero’ or ‘superhero’ backstory), Matt Price fell under the care and tutelage of Albright Industries. There, he discovered his ability to not only read minds but also quietly manipulate events with the information he receives. And like any good company, Albright found ways to profit from their parental relationship, contracting Matt and his skills out to the highest bidder for a price. Fortunately for the United States government, that highest bidder happens to be the Secret Service, where Matt’s skills come in very handy in the protection of foreign diplomats.
As our story opens, however, things are not all peachy-keen. Matt receives word from a secret operative that Albright may be concealing the truth of the boy’s past from him, but the man won’t reveal what he knows without something in exchange from our young psychic. Their meeting sets in motion a series of events that’ll put the young man into danger taking the shape of a shadowy group hoping to twist his abilities even possibly against himself.
BRAIN BOY works exceedingly well as a first issue. Its introductions are necessarily swift, but, unlike some other firsts I’ve read, they’re not clunky or expository. In fact, most of what takes place here – a central discussion on secret origins – works very well in the context of this being the beginning of what could be a long, successful career in graphic storytelling. Scribe Fred Van Lente gives the young man a manageable impetutousness, a trait that’ll definitely help a hero who’s in flux or whose loyalties may be shifting, and R. B. Silva’s artwork has a sharp, contemporary feel, though some panels have a bit-too-generic lay-out for my acquired tastes.
However, as this is a first issue, what really matters is how well it gathers interests and builds momentum. I can speak to the former – it’s definitely the foundation of a tale I’ll be following in the issues ahead – but the latter can only be measured by the issues (and stories) yet to unfold. I wish it well, and I suspect more readers will, too.
BRAIN BOY (#1) is published by Dark Horse Comics. It’s appropriate billed as a first issue, but there’s some indication inside that this is only Part 1 of a three-part storyline. The story is by Fred Van Lente; with art by R. B. Silva; with inks by Rob Lean; with colors by Ego; and lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot. The issue includes a single page afterward (from editor Jim Gibbons) that recounts the real-world origins and history of BRAIN BOY, and, yes, even that’s fit for a tale all of its own! The issue bears the cover price of $2.99, and that’s indeed a bargain in this day and age.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. BRAIN BOY balances just the proper amounts of pulp and cheese in this debut issue, creating a character whose origins are a bit secretive but only so much so that it builds on the mystery surrounding this world. Who is he, really? Where did he come from? No doubt, readers will find out about the same time young Matt Price does; as our hero, he’s yearning to know more about his past so that it won’t curtail his future! Great artwork, great intros, and a very solid beginning to this new monthly.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital copy of BRAIN BOY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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