Moonstone Books is known primarily (at least to me) as a company that produces overpriced, but entertaining, black-and-white noir comics. Those same comics are produced by a variety of creative teams, some well-known and others less so. For the most part, it appears that the Moonstone Noir line is a series of one-shots, at best a range of “pilot episodes,” if you will, testing the waters for possible ongoings. As such, the closest thing Moonstone has to a regular series is the fact that they’ve produced a relatively large amount of comics based on The Phantom (as well as some White Wolf Games licensed material) in a short amount of time. That is, until now.
The Silencers, as I recall, was billed as being something akin to The Sopranos, only in comic book form and with superpowers. Having read it, I can without hesitation say that the similarity between the two works begin and end with the fact that both their titles are plural s-words. That and their revolving around crime.
That is not to say, however, that The Silencers isn’t a good book, because it is. I just thought the promotional high concept was particularly inaccurate (and maybe it’s just my memory that’s inaccurate, in which case I’m way off base here).
Fiore Carlino, better known to the underworld that he serves and the law that he avoids as the Cardinal, leads a team of super-powered enforcers for the New York area’s most notorious and powerful crime family, the Provenzanos. It is a job that he is brutally effective at; however, it is not one that he particularly enjoys, nor is it something that he wants to continue. To that end, amidst a burgeoning turf war between the Provenzanos and a cartel of shadowy drug pushers known only as the Syndicate, the Cardinal enacts a plan to fake his own death, in effect allowing him to retire from his criminal lifestyle safe from reprisals from his former employers. However, as they say, just when Carlino thinks he’s out, they pull him back in.
The story itself is quite compelling. It reads like the reverse version of Powers, focusing not only on a world populated by non-DC/Marvel superheroes, but also on the criminal underbelly of that world. Van Lente spends a considerable portion of the issue in flashback sequences, showing the Cardinal’s time in prison and giving us a logical reason for why he would want to escape his violent lifestyle. Also to his credit, Van Lente rips out a sudden, violent ending that leaves the fate of nearly the entire team in question and gives the book’s readers more than ample reason to come back in a few months for the second issue.
In the end, there’s very little for me to complain about. While I find it hard to believe that actual Mafioso use the word “whacked” nearly as often as Van Lente’s do, the dialogue is, overall, quite solid. In fact, I’m not certain that the word is even used that often throughout the issue, it’s just that it’s such a hallmark of bad mobster movies that it stuck out to me in what was otherwise an exemplary effort. All in all, The Silencers is a solid beginning for Moonstone’s new found ongoing line-up. Best of all, it’s much more reasonably priced than most of the company’s previous books.
“Super Sized Shocker,” the cover proclaims. Bendis has made much of this issue over the past couple months, promising big changes for the title in the conclusion of the story arc. And while it’s certainly interesting, I’m not so certain that it’s met its hype.
Detectives Walker and Pilgrim have recently been investigating the murder (brought to light by a security tape of said homicide) of the Red Hawk, a former member of the world-renowned (but currently defunct) supergroup, Unity. The Red Hawk’s death comes shortly after a scandal breaks out over the public release of a tape that purportedly shows (falsely, it turns out) the hero engaging in some seriously disturbing sexual escapades. The pair of police officers moves from superhero to superhero, interviewing and questioning the former members of Unity on their relationships with the Red Hawk, looking for any possible lead on the prominent figure’s very public death.
Their investigation is upset, however, by sudden turmoil the world over. A nuclear explosion lights the Utah desert, the Vatican is razed, Iraq is destroyed and the Gaza Strip disappears. Walker and Pilgrim’s manhunt spirals inward on Unity until one man stands alone at the center of the string of atrocities: Supershock, presumed to be the most powerful metahuman the world has ever seen. At the close of the last issue, Pilgrim rushed off to Unity headquarters without her partner to confront the mysterious icon face to face.
Essentially what this all boils down to is a deconstruction of the Justice League of America in general and the notion of Superman in particular. Because while it’s amusing to realize that such a band of diversely and dangerously powered individuals could never work together for an extended period of time (apparently, with great power comes great egocentrism), the question has always remained of why a being of Superman’s power would restrain himself from functioning as God walking the earth. DC Comics have often suggested that Kryptonian biology makes Clark Kent extraordinary, but wholesome, Midwestern American values make Superman a hero.
This issue, then, is a look at what an acutely self-aware Superman would be like. A Superman who realizes that he not only has the ability to impose his will upon the people of Earth, but in his mind, the moral imperative. It also asks the question, “How the hell does Earth respond?”
So far, we’re totally cool, as far as I’m concerned. I thoroughly enjoyed this arc, once it got moving. Previously, I had criticized it for being nothing more than another look at a tired concept, the idea that Batman (or, in this case, The Red Hawk) is a seriously disturbed person with some definite sexual issues. But, again, once it picked up some momentum, it was rather fascinating (and would have been even more so if the book shipped consistently, but that’s neither here nor there), a genuinely interesting breakdown of the concept of a group of civic-minded superheroes.
The problem is in the “super sized shocker” part. Now, there’s no sense in me spoiling the “shocker” for you; that would just be mean. But I will say that it seemed wholly tacked on, simply shoehorned into the story on the last page to justify the hyperbolic statements that Bendis had made in letter columns and interviews. And, frankly, the surprise just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
Now, I’m sure that that statement is something that I’ll look back on once the next arc gets rolling and say, “Man, where the hell was my brain?” But that’s the complaint, I guess. It’s hard to see exactly what impact the twist will immediately have on the types of stories that the book tells.
In the end though, the issue is damned good. It’s a very solid story backed up with some gorgeous art from Oeming. I can’t complain about the content of the story itself. I just think I would have enjoyed the whole package more if I hadn’t been expecting a bigger ending.