This week is the debut of one of Image’s new series titled, The Mantle. Written by Ed Brisson (Sheltered) and illustrated by Brian Level (Lazarus), the comic documents Robbie, an uninspiringly average guy, who is gifted with incredible powers and consequently sucked into a war between two super forces. Selected as the new avatar for The Mantle, Robbie is forced to assume the role as he not only inherits super powers, but a villain as well. So is this new series good?
The Mantle #1 (Image Comics)
The issue begins with the main character, Robbie, drunkenly leaving a concert with his girlfriend (or friend that is a girl. Either way they’re close). It’s during this walk home that Robbie is struck by magical lightning that knocks him out. When Robbie awakes, he’s in his apartment with his girl, Jen, and three other mysterious people. This curious group explains that Robbie has been selected as the representative of the Mantle, an almighty superpower that transfers from owner to owner once the individual passes away. Robbie has just become a super-hero.
Robbie is not you’re a-typical superhero figure. In fact when he gained the power, he was high off shrooms. Despite his unwillingness to assume the role, the group of strangers who all possess powers themselves thrust him into superhero-101. The opposing power to the Mantle, The Plague, quickly tracks the source of the new powers to Robbie and the two are immediately thrown into battle.
Up until this point the comic failed to stand out to me. The everyday misfits assuming the superhero role isn’t a terribly original concept, but it does have a more modern feel to it (via gauges and the recognition of dated costume apparel.) Even with the faint satire and parallel of traditional superhero lore, Brisson’s plot concepts run a little too close with those of other comics such as Green Lantern. The issue’s pace seems entirely rushed with Robbie’s backstory, super powers background, and the identity and superpowers of the concerned group of strangers all spelled out within the first fifteen pages of the debut issue.
The comic was too predictable and I was about to deal out a low score based on its overt superhero stereotypes when the issue took a sharp turn. Despite the misleading preview for the series which discusses Robbie’s ascension to greatness, Robbie is actually brutally murdered fighting the Plague less than an hour into bearing the Mantle (decapitated even, it’s a pretty awesome panel). While you assume he’s just going to come back to life, the power of the Mantle travels to a new host: Robbie’s girl friend Jen. This completely saved the comic and I loved the misdirection they had been building towards throughout the issue as they compiled predictable plot lines leading to this.
It is however difficult to judge the writing because at a superficial level it’s nothing too noteworthy. Brisson does to a sufficient job at writing the archetypal superhero story and utilizing common ploys which makes the twist at the end all that more surprising. Level’s art is excellent and is sure to meet reader’s expectations. The fight scene is particularly good (especially the way it ends) and the comic as a whole taps into the traditional superhero visuals with a darker, more realistic undertone.
Is It Good
The Mantle is definitely more than meets the eye. Once you think you know the premise and dynamic of the series the last three pages change everything. With the twist at the end it’s hard to accurately predict what the rest of the series is going to be like because of the change in direction, but I prefer that than the rushed plot of this issue. Level backs up the story with excellent art and is one of the main appeals of the comic. I’m hesitant, but on board for the series as of now.