Past Lives And Violent Futures Collide In Fred Van Lente’s Excellent ‘Resurrectionists’ #1
I've been a fan of Fred Van Lente's comics work for almost ten years now, and the one thing that I love more than anything else about his work is that every time he starts up a new series, it almost always feels like something completely different. You can draw parallels between books like Incredible Hercules and Archer & Armstrong, of course, but neither one of those feels quite the same as G.I. Joe or Taskmaster. The one thing that really unites them, and the one thing that comes through pretty clearly if you ever interview that that guy about his work, is that there's a lot of research that goes into everything he writes, and it's research that comes through in very strange ways.
Case in point: Resurrectionists, a new ongoing Dark Horse series from Van Lente, Maurizio Rosenzweig and Moreno Dinisio that provides a pretty amazing vehicle for delivering that research directly to the reader, and does it with one of the biggest, weirdest high concepts I've seen in a long time.
That high concept is both the biggest draw of the series, but it's also the source of one of the biggest problems in the first issue, if only because it's not exactly one of those things that can be handily explained in the story itself. The tradeoff is that there's an awful lot crammed into the first issue in terms of story, but still, it helps to know what you're dealing with going in. Fortunately, they print it right there on the inside front cover, and you, dear reader, have me to help out.
The core idea is that there are people called -- wait for it -- Resurrectionists, rare souls who can not only remember their past lives, but have the ability to project themselves into them, living out lives at multiple points in history. It's a really interesting twist just in concept, as the book is split between two different eras of the same person's lives, alternating between a man in the present who's having flashbacks to a past life, where he was a man who could see the future, which is the life he's living now. It's a tidy little circle of predetermination, but Van Lente and Rosenzweig manage to make both segments equally entertaining.
The main character of this first issue goes by the charmingly ridiculous comic booky name of Jericho Way, and in 2014, he's an architect and part-time thief specializing in museum heists:
His latest job involves relieving a local museum of a page from an ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead -- because, you know, that always works out pretty well for everyone involved -- which opens up the connection in his head to his past life in Ancient Egypt.
Back then, he was Tao, an architect responsible for building a tomb for the High Priest of Amun-Ra. As a result, he's an expert in constructing elaborate deathtraps, which is a quality I tend to be pretty well in favor of when it comes to picking out my favorite comic book characters. Unfortunately for Tao, and even more unfortunately for his wife, the High Priest wants his tomb to be so impenetrable to grave-robbers that he orders everyone involved in the construction to be murdered, with Tao escaping into the tomb.
To be honest, as much as I like the high concept, that scene almost derailed the book for me. I mean, I love the Punisher, but I've seen enough first issues that kick off with someone's wife being murdered in order to spur the hero to revenge to last a lifetime. It's something that's been done to death, and in a book where the core idea feels as fresh and interesting as it does here -- not to mention a new title from one of my absolute favorite writers -- it's rough to see one of the old clichés getting worked into the plot. The one saving grace is that the nature of the book allows for a twist at the end that makes things a little more palatable and hints at the idea that Van Lente and Rosenzweig are doing a little more with that trope than it originally seems.
Beyond that, though, there's still plenty to like in this first issue, and the thing I love the most is that before the premise is even introduced, there's already a twist on it in the form of another Resurrectionist who doesn't just revisit her past lives, but uses their skills in the present to exceptionally violent effect:
I really love that idea, not just because it's a great visual that lends a dynamic sense to action scenes that I don't think I've ever seen before, although it's definitely that. Having each moment of the fight be visually keyed to a different person from a distinct historical era is a pretty amazing touch, and it's the kind of thing I want to read entire issues of, just to see how deep it can go. But beyond that, it establishes right off the bat how much less powerful Jericho is, and how far he has to go before he's even close to being on the level of the forces that are arraying themselves against him. All things considered, it's a pretty risky choice, asking the reader to stick with this guy for the time that it's going to take for him to get on that level, but it also allows things to build with a sense of mystery while still getting a pretty awesome action scene into the book right from the start.
Either way, Jericho's story is more than interesting enough to carry the book, and the fact that we get a past-life regression fight scene, a museum heist, solid character work in two different eras bridged by the same soul inhabiting two different lifetimes, a pyramid full of deathtraps, and the setup for an overarching mystery involving an evil corporation all in the span of a single issue is pretty impressive. It's a solid ride, and it's more than enough to ensure that I'm in to see where it goes from here.
That it has a title combing two of my greatest loves (Futura and old-timey Victorian words for graverobbers) is just icing on the cake.
Resurrectionists #1 is on sale now in finer comics shops and digitally.