This time, I will be journeying into the realm of Warren Ellis again. A while ago, I decided to look into Black Summer after The Spoony One laid out the rather interesting premise in one of his videos. Which is thankful, because I wouldn’t have gotten any detail concerning the premise otherwise. Allow me to explain:

When I went to go pick up the first issue, I rightfully assumed that it was the FIRST ISSUE. And in some ways it was. But when it only briefly mentioned the events that had been laid out to me as the opening of the series, I was really confused. After asking around, I found out there was an issue zero. That’s right. An issue zero.

Let’s discuss a problem with comic books really quickly. New people have a hard time getting into comic books for a number of reasons, but a big one is because they have a hard time keeping track of characters and plot lines, and the number of issues required to do so can be intimidating. Which is why proper numbering is important, not only to more serious comic book folk but also people who are simply interested in a certain hero or story and wish to know more about them. When you break that numbering system, it is incredibly frustrating. Now, I am a pretty patient guy when it comes to this stuff, so it didn’t scare me off, but I know of many people who have been turned off to comics as a medium because of shenanigans like this.

Anyway, back to the “issue” at hand:

Summary: Black Summer is a story that starts with the worlds greatest hero, John Horus, killing the president and his cabinet. He then announces to the press that they were corrupt war criminals, and he will oversee a new fair election to replace them. Obviously, things don’t go quite that smoothly, as the military starts freaking out and hunting down all of John’s old team, one of whom, Tom Noir, is the focus of this issue. Tom was crippled in an accident and has been long retired, but that doesn’t stop the “government” from suspecting his involvement in the assassination. He receives a visit from one of their representatives, a long thought dead friend named Frank Blacksmith who has come with a large bodyguard to politely kill Tom in case he becomes a threat. It largely takes place in his apartment during this encounter, with brief flashbacks show bits of the origin story of the team.

Art: This is my biggest complaint with the comic. The art seems fine in more grand scenes (like John flying around a tower) but in the closer scenes, especially the fight scene in the apartment, it gets really line heavy, and just seems really over done. It’s not enough to break the comic, and at times this style leads to great detail, but it makes a lot of panels far too busy. One positive note in this category, though, is that despite the business, the characters expressions really show through, more so than I’ve seen in a lot of comics.

One warning to potential readers, though. It’s really, really, gory.

Writing: The concept is diabolically genius, that of a hero having no choice but to stop someone he perceives as a murderer, without the help of the justice system (this person just happens to be the president), and the question over his sanity in doing so. All of these things are laid out here (more or less, Issue Zero gives a better picture of this, however).

But other than some a good intrigue, not a whole lot happens in this issue. Regardless of the rather pin-point plot, it is expertly paced, with flashbacks providing exposition at just the right times, without it feeling like your slogging through said exposition. If one of the only complaints about something is that you want more of it, then that is usually a good sign. Also, it has some of the same style from Transmetropolitan, with a dark humor streak beneath the seriousness, and that’s never a bad thing (at least for me).

Overall: I’d recommend checking out at least the issue ZERO, which is what I did shortly after reading this one (if you can find it, it took me a while) to see if you like it. It’s only supposed to be 99 cents, so its a good way to gage whether or not you’re going to enjoy this comic, as I did. I’ve recently acquired the rest of the comics, so after I read them all I will probably come back for further analysis. However, until then, tune in next time for my first review of a comic I didn’t like!