In Review: Solarman #1

An excellent origin with some spectacular visuals.

The cover: This is how to get a reader to pick up a book with a cover image. Ben Tucker stares at the reader as his hand glows with energy. The look on his face could be threatening or a warning, telling the reader that they don’t want to cross that line. This frontpiece was created by interior artist and colorist N. Steven Harris and Andrew Dalhouse. The coloring really sells the energy that the hero has coming out of his hand, and the space background gives this a sci-fi feel, which teases part of the character’s origin. Who else could this character be but Solarman? Well done in every way. Overall grade: A

The story: An unknown character opens the book speaking into an electronic device on his wrist that translates his speech into text. After speaking, he thinks to himself that it’s surprising that he’s going to be caught by the police, considering ‘the corporations I’ve beaten, the “big men” I’ve screwed…’ He doesn’t think he should be caught. He’s not a murderer and he doesn’t break rules, like those on the space station did. The scene then moves to said station where an astronaut spacewalking grabs an electronic device (that the speaker was wearing on the first page) that’s tumbling through space. Inside, the other astronauts realize that it’s not of Earth manufacture, but they’ll give it a closer look the next day. Once alone, the device begins to resonate with crimson energy. Back on Earth, Ben Tucker is running from some peers, having hacked their phones. He’s beaten, but doesn’t care because he’s a hacker and he lives to expose people. Joseph Phillip Illidge and Brendan Deneen do a solid job in setting up Ben and what drives him. Though she only makes a few appearances, his friend Jenny is a nice way to ground him and I’m hoping that at some point Ben will be face to face with her. How he gets his powers makes sense, and I like the sinister nature of them revealed on 10 – 11. I’m a big fan of an antgonist not being revealed until the last possible moment and this book certainly does that. Before the reveal of the big bad, there has to be a moment when the hero uses his powers for the first time, and Illidge and Deneed deliver that quite well; I especially liked the explicit nod to the sunrise to show how Solarman powers up. I was not prepared for Page 20, which puts a good twist on how Ben is going to have to exist with his new abilities. This is a good introduction to the character, with some nice action and lots of questions. I’m on board for more. Overall grade: A

The art: N. Steven Harris is an incredible artist. This is my first exposure to his work and I’m a fan with just this one issue. The first page teases whom it is that’s doing the talking and thinking, as only the speaker’s lips and arm is shown. This is a good way to pull the reader into the story. The space station scenes are good, with Pages 4 and 5 looking best with the astronauts floating inside its interiors; it was impressive to see how Harris uses the hair of individuals to show the obvious lack of gravity. Ben’s first appearance is an active one; running down the street with a smile on his face. When he faces his opponents his smile grows all the larger, telling the reader that he enjoys this part of his life. When the space station is returned to it’s an entirely different environment and Harris has placed a lot of details on these pages to show its current state. The silhouette of the antagonist on 11 is great — this is exactly the sort of image that needs to tease, rather than show, the villain. The full paged splash on 12 is powerful, with the character reacting violently to the action and a really slick energy wave effect; this lives up to the classic “origin” image of all heroes. When shown on 14, Ben looks lost in that third panel. His reaction in the fifth panel is sensational, as is the second panel on 15. The close up atop 16 is excellent character changing moment, and he’s absolutely monstrous in the panels that follow; I actually wondered if Solarman was going to be a bad guy. I like that he doesn’t need to get physical with the antagonist in the middle of 17 and that only a look is needed. As good as these are, it’s Page 20 that has the strongest visuals. No text is needed to tell the reader what’s occurring (though it sure is better if one does read it). The power of the first panel is amazing and the emotion on Ben’s face awesome. The final panel reveals who the silhouette was aboard the space station and this character looks great. I want to see more of Harris’s work. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors on this book ground the book in reality and put some dramatic punch into the explosive energy at play. The interiors of the space station are the expected grays, but the astronauts are wearing blue jump suits, making them stand out in their environment. The reds that briefly appear on Page 6 tease to the reader the energy that will come into play later. The coloring of characters’ skin is impressive, giving everyone an almost three dimensional look. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse really begins to explode with the second visit to the space station; his colors give the gruesome visuals an absolutely evil air. The yellows, oranges, and tans on 12  begin to show the power of this Solarman, but truly come to life on 16 and 17; the imagry is outstanding. Reds return on 19, reacquainting the reader with the evil air. The final page is the most colorful of the issue, leaving me eager to see what this character will be colored like in future issues. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, computer text, narration, sounds, whispers, yells, and the unique font for a character’s log are created by Marshall Dillon. Computer text in comics have to mirror the reality of today’s electronics, for if they don’t it will lose readers. Dillon makes these fonts real and his sounds put just the right punch into every panel. Overall grade: A

The final line: An excellent origin with some spectacular visuals. This is a hero that anyone could follow. I know I will. I hope that Solarman lasts for a long time. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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