The Intrepids #1 & Carbon Grey #1 – Science ‘n Guns [Review]
This week marks the start of two new series published by Image, The Intrepids and Carbon Grey. The two books have significant differences, but both show the marks of imagination run wild combined with a love of over-the-top action scenes. Both also have premiere issues that hint at much larger, elaborately constructed universes, with flashes of promise that are sure to attract audiences, but neither begins with the kind of jaw-dropping opener that demands instant attention.
Created by writer Kurtis Wiebe and illustrator Scott Kowalchuk, and colored by Justin Scott, The Intrepids tells the story of a scientific genius named Dante was crossed by an old rival, swore to protect the world from mad science, and recruited scientifically enhanced orphans as operatives to achieve that goal. The premise has some great potential for developing into a vast world. Not to mention clear opportunities for twists to the neat explanation we're given up front.
Issue one opens with the team, consisting of leader and crack-shot Crystal, strong-man Doyle, jetpack equipped Rose, and tech specialist Chester, breaking into a compound where science has gone bad and is creating cybernetically enhanced animals. Which means the book's first action scene includes these panels:
And honestly, it's hard not to like a book that begins with something like that. Kowalchuk's character designs are of an exaggerated and elegantly simply style that helps to establish a personality for the book right from the start, as well as telling the reader a lot about each character's personality before they even speak.
The biggest obstacle facing the book is that the "team of youngsters trained by a single mentor to be a group that helps the world" thing is common ground in comics, and thus the standard for it is high and it's hard not to make comparisons to books like Umbrella Academy.
The second new Image series, Carbon Grey, is a beautifully illustrated, ultraviolent action epic in a setting that evokes a high-tech alternate history take on World War I. It brings a long list of credits with it, with stories by Hoang Nguyen, Khari Evans, Paul Gardner and Mike Kennedy, art by Khari Evans, Kinsuh Loh and Hoang Nguyen, and script and lettering by Paul Gardner.
The world is visually impressive, set in a German Empire full of airships, and fighting in barbed-wire trenches, and it aims to be epic in a scale to match the combat.
But the overwhelming impression I get from the book is alternating flashes of blood, breasts, and explosions. Which leads me to my second, more delicate problem with Carbon Grey. We all have a personal list of things that we would prefer not to be described by the adjective "sexy". For me, one of those things is "early to mid 20th century German military officer".
I am fully aware that Carbon Grey exists in some kind of alternate reality based on the First World War, and that these are not Nazis, and that there are no Nazis in this setting. But that doesn't stop me from seeing those uniforms, some of which certainly seem to look a lot like German uniforms from the second World War, and making those associations in my head.
Seeing those lovingly illustrated bosoms blitzkrieging out of that uniform in search of greater living space is like serving me a slice of cheesecake stuffed inside a larger, fried cheesecake only to then vomit onto it with ruthless efficiency. If your goal as an artist is to arouse me, it is in your best interest to not show me anything that could possibly remind me of the fact that Nazi Germany once existed, because thinking about its numerous crimes against humanity is a rather massive mood killer.
I'm not necessarily going to go so far as to say that this is in some way reprehensible, but I will say that it might be unwise because I don't think I'm alone in my opinion on this. I know that there are people out there with the exact opposite viewpoint, and while I'm not necessarily saying I'm judging them, yes that is exactly what I am doing.
Which is a shame, because the artwork in the book is gorgeous. The team puts tremendous detail into every character that appears. Each has an appearance that's unique and full of personality, even if they're only in panel for a few pages before their heads explode. Whether those characters are beautiful, hideous, or anywhere in between, they're all great. And that goes to everything else as well, from objects to clothing to building.
Still, I can't see myself sticking with the book. As pretty as it is, I've never been one to follow a book that favors giving limited first issue panel space to blood and bare flesh over story to the degree Carbon Grey does.