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Comic Book Review: Stealth #1 by Robert Kirkman

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To be honest I picked up this issue because it had a fairly bad-ass looking cover. The character on the front looked like a cross between Spawn and Archangel from X-Men, awesome. After reading the issue I discovered that it’s more than just an awesome cover.

The issue is part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season. Basically, Top Cow applies the TV show principal to comics, except they add in a whole lot more fan interaction. The 2009/10 Pilot Season sees Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri teaming up for five one-issue comics. Once all five comics have been released, fans are able to vote for their favorite one. At the end of voting the character with the most votes will receive their own Top Cow series. It’s an interesting concept which they’ve been running since 2007 with a fair degree of success.

 

This information helps you to understand what Stealth is all about. It needs to appeal to audiences and create the most amount of interest it can so it will gain a full series. It needs to show the potential the series has by bringing up a large amount of questions, concepts and ideas. The reader needs to, at the end, think “man, I want to read more of that,” and I think Stealth does that very well.

Kirkman, on the back page, describes what he wants to do with Stealth. He wanted to do something which “looked like a classic superhero comic from the 70’s or 80’s but was a much darker, modern superhero story. Something that looked dated, but could never have actually existed in that time period.” Together, Kirkman and Mitchell have achieved that look.

As you’d expect from a title called Stealth, there is a fair bit of misdirection going on, especially if, like me, you knew nothing about it going in. The story sets you up to believe one thing, through some choice dialogue and narrative structure, and then shows you something else. Mitchell’s artwork helps with this as it creates a somewhat familiar world setting. It reminds you of the classic, cut and dry superhero stories that take place in real life locations like New York. There’s nothing abstract or strange about the artwork; instead it seems to aim for a degree of realism and has an air of naturalism to it. Everything looks right and how it ought to be.

That’s not to say there aren’t some stunning pieces of artwork in Stealth. For instance, the use of blues, whites and grays in our first look at Stealth, flying through the air, is brilliant. The costume reflects the color of the sky and really seems to suggest that Stealth is more at peace when working under the cover of night. Also the final page, with its dissolving of the background to white, really highlights the image you are left with and hammers home the seriousness of the story.

The setting they create makes the story's main draw card seem that much more powerful. After setting you up to believe that the blonde-haired, middle aged, pet project owning Todd is the titular superhero Stealth, Kirkman turns the story — and your expectations — on their head by introducing Todd’s Alzheimer suffering father as the superhero Stealth. The shock that Todd feels at finding out who his father really is gets echoed by the reader, who finds out the character most expected to be the hero is, in fact, not.

When the reader, and Todd, seem to get over the shock of discovering the true identity of the father, Kirkman and Mitchell throw another shocking, powerful image at you. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but the last few pages are so powerful and thought-provoking that they are definitely worth the issue price alone.

Few stories have dealt with their heroes actually getting old. I’ve read Wolverine: Old Man Logan and glanced at Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns with its middle-aged Batman, but I’ve never read anything like this. It reminds me of the Ultimate’s universe where the heroes are affected by modern day, realistic problems like sex-tapes and issues readers can relate to. Stealth picks up on that thread with its dealing with Alzheimer’s and asks how dangerous this disease is, especially in the hands of a powerful superhero?

The biggest disappointment, from this issue, is that there’s a good chance we might never see any more of Stealth. If it doesn’t win the voting, then we are left with this one issue. While it’s a remarkable entry, it does spend a lot of its time trying to build up a world, a story and potential for growth that it almost asks too many questions for one issue. There is also some cringe worthy, confusing and not quite thought out dialogue, but it’s not a constant feature of the issue.

All in all this is an issue that I thoroughly recommend you buy. Then, when it comes time to vote for your favorite Top Cow Pilot Season comic, vote for it. This is a story that seems to be crying out to be told; it just needs to be given a chance.

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