Overview

Smoke & Mirror #1

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Smoke & Mirror #1

Credits

  • Words: Charles William Satterlee
  • Art: Claude St. Aubin
  • Inks: Kevin Breyfogle
  • Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
  • Story Title: Welcome to Chicago
  • Publisher: Speakeasy Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 8, 2005

There’s a new Smoke on the streets taking down criminals in the same way that his predecessor, the Golden Age Smoke, did in his hometown of Chicago.

This issue serves as an introduction to Chicago’s superhero, Smoke, who seemingly has been saving the city for many years. What most people wouldn’t know is that it isn’t the same man under the mask anymore, and the man on the streets now is a new Smoke. Rather than just show us one side of the character in this first issue, the reader is given glimpses into every facet of his life, from his superhero-ing to his day job trying to help people out. We also get to see a few of the secondary characters that he’ll be dealing with, including the Golden Age Smoke, who is acting as his mentor.

Too often in new superhero books, the writer will take a very roundabout way to introduce his creations. Luckily, Charles Satterlee thankfully does away with any clichéd long introduction to his characters and thrusts his readers right into the action. While the reader won’t know too much about the character, they see that he is a superhero and get a quick understanding of his powers. Satterlee also eliminates any mystery as to the secret identity of the character, and actually adds importance to it with the selection of his profession. However, this is where the cliché avoidance ends. There seems to be a little too much of the naïve wide-eyed optimism to our hero. In an issue where we’re given a basic introduction to him and how he got put in his predicament, one would think that a little more cynicism would be present. Likewise, the mentor role, played by the Golden Age Smoke, is too happy. There seems to be no real edge or depth to these characters at all. Hopefully further issues with flesh them out a little more.

Another issue with the storytelling is the use of flashbacks. When looking at the preview for the book, it was promised that there would be exciting Golden Age-style flashbacks in each issue. Aside from the coloring of this particular flashback, it is in no way distinguishable as an example of the "Golden Age." The other flashback in the book is completely unnecessary, as it really gives no information about the characters that isn’t already inferred. This flashback runs very short and seems like it would have worked better in a situation where it could have been extended, or perhaps used in a different section of the book. Worst of all, the transitions into the flashbacks are incredibly corny at best.

The artwork in this book, as drawn by Claude St. Aubin, is well done. Aubin’s work is stylized just enough to look like a superhero book, without getting too silly. He sometimes has trouble with proportions and his panel angles could use some work here and there, but on the whole, it seems like a really good fit with the story being told. His facial expressions capture the few emotions necessary and his action sequences are full of life. He doesn’t break any new ground with his page or panel designs, but he paces the book very well, highlighting what needs it with larger panels, and generally keeping the flow of the book natural. Not once will the reader be confused or have to slow down to understand anything.

Smoke & Mirror is an interesting idea, creating new characters that still have legacies to live up to. There are a lot of good stories and interesting points that can be made about comics and superheroes with a series like this. If they manage to clean up some of the clichés (or at least use them better) and try not to force anything, this could be a very good series.

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