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The Silencers #1 (ADVANCE REVIEW)

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The Silencers #1 (ADVANCE REVIEW)

Credits

  • Words: Fred Van Lente
  • Art: Steve Ellis
  • Inks: Steve Ellis
  • Colors: Dae Lim Yoo
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Release Date: Jul 20, 2005

Image Comics is the new home of a one of Moonstone Books’ highlights of 2004, a title often described as Powers meets "The Sopranos."

At the end of the four issue The Silencers miniseries, The Cardinal and the rest of his super-powered criminal cadre had "won" the Black Kiss War by destroying the outfit that had once employed them as enforcers. Having laid low for a year, Hairtrigger, Nil, Missile 21, Stiletto, and their leader The Cardinal must now deal with all manner of two-bit thugs and hoodlums rushing in to fill the power vacuum they’ve created. Already, as the new issue #1 opens, there’s friction within the group, the impulsive Hairtrigger angry that The Silencers haven’t capitalized on their victory, and that he’s been passed over as the group’s lieutenant in favor of Stiletto. Pushing the strains within the group further, when Hairtrigger learns that his family has been slaughtered by some "norm wiseguy" trying to put The Silencers back in their place, he leaves the group. Undaunted, The Cardinal then plans a counterstrike that, with typical Silencers flair, will re-introduce the criminal underworld to The Silencers.

The Silencers #1 feels more like a one-shot than the opening arc of a new series. Still, it’s a good re-introduction to one of the more intriguing super teams out there. The opening action sequence effectively introduces the members of the group, their character aspects as well as their abilities. That the typical villain psyche—ruled so much of the time by selfishness, greed, megalomania, or just the sheer desire to destroy—is ill-suited to working within the boundaries of a team also makes the very idea of villain super group fascinating. And while The Silencers are more criminals than "villains" (there being few if any heroes in their world to define them as such), the anti-social psychology remains the same, and Van Lente’s script gives us an inside view of how it affects the dynamics within the group. Until now, the force of The Cardinal’s personality has been the glue holding the group together. But after the deaths of some of their comrades, one of which plays an important role in this new #1, and a year underground, the frays are beginning to show.

But while Van Lente dramatizes this tension well, this issue’s pacing is not as polished. It feels rushed and choppy at times, particularly in the final third in which The Silencers strike back. On the one hand, it’s cool that they get the job done without using their powers. But on the other hand, since the real problem is the power vacuum, of which the hit on Hairtrigger’s relatives seems just a symptom, it’s not really clear why such a roundabout, ultra low-profile method of revenge was preferable to sending a more explicit message. Consequently, to me it didn’t seem that The Silencers did what they needed to do. They go for the small stuff, as Hairtrigger would’ve done, instead of dealing with the big picture. And likewise, because of the pacing, I finished the read wondering whether the story could have been more developed, perhaps naturally over two issues instead of too compressed into one.

Steve Ellis’ artwork has a rushed quality about it as well. What seems like a quick hand with a pencil injects the action sequences and moments of high tension with energy and dynamism. But there’s something lacking during his slower moments, particularly close-ups, where the faces too often are blank, stoic, or expressionless. He does pissed-off and angry well, though. In fact, he draws Hairtrigger with such rage that you want to stay on the character’s good side, though it’s not clear that he has one. And Ellis also does a solid job with the sometimes awkward pacing of the script, capturing just the right moment, then balancing angle and perspective so that the reader sees a fluid progression from one panel to the next.

Big picture, despite its technical flaws, The Silencers #1 is a fresh take on the criminal super team concept and has a lot of potential. And it’s the characters and the world that Van Lente has constructed around them that will bring me back for issue #2, and more after that. It’s good to have Cardinal and company back. Moonstone’s loss is Image’s gain.

Image’s THE SILENCERS #1 will be released on July 20, 2005.

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