You know, we here at AiPT! review a lot of DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite comics, but there’s one company that we don’t often cover enough: Avatar Press, the publisher behind Crossed, Uber, and whatever new project Alan Moore tends to be working on these days. As such, let’s change that and take a look at a brand new book from the company, Mercury Heat by Kieron Gillen. Is it good?
Mercury Heat #1 (Avatar Press)
Luiza Bora is heading to a dangerous, hostile environment that’s completely out of this world. She has recently become a cop and she’s heading to Mercury to serve and protect… sort of. Things on Mercury are very different from Earth, from a weird class hierarchy system to how people actually work and do their job there. Luiza may have her work cut out for her as she heads to this alien environment and takes on her first case.
Mercury Heat #1 is an interesting one to a certain degree. It’s almost a good book that shows potential for being a fun sci-fi/action tale. However, the keyword to that last sentence is “almost”, because this is a comic that significantly misses the mark in a very sad way. As a first issue that is meant to introduce the readers to this new world, the main character, and the concepts and ideas that we’ll be seeing throughout this series… it’s a depressing disappointment. It tells you nothing about anything, outside of maybe giving you a few hints on certain points, and just simply pushes you into the deep end of the pool, unaware and not caring that you may not know how to swim. Heck, even the eight-page preview given out on Free Comic Book Day doesn’t help much.
Oh Avatar Press. You only publish the classiest of comics.
Story-wise, it’s between almost non-existent; bare bones. Luiza goes to Mercury to become a cop and then she takes on a case that may be more than it seems. That’s kind of it with no real surprises or twists to it. The case doesn’t even reveal anything about the society that lives on Mercury to help a new reader get an idea of this world. Everything else about the story and setting gives us nothing to work with. There’s apparently a class system based on your personality, for some reason, but it’s not remotely explained in the first issue. In fact, you would only know that this number system has something to do with personality if you read the free preview. The Grapevine everyone keeps talking about and is briefly seen is a complete mystery in how works or if its an AI or just a person. Everything else is not talked about or even given much context for, leading to a comic experience where you feel mostly in dark about what is going and not in a good way.
The main character isn’t that great either. Luiza Bora is stock action hero lead with a sense of justice who wants to fight crime and protect people, but also takes no gruff from anyone (even though she herself is pretty gruff). That’s pretty much it for the character&mddash;no real look at her backstory. Her biggest goal in life was to become a police officer judging from the FCBD issue given out, but she’s already made it. We don’t see any of her struggles to get where she is nor anything resembling a character arc or layer in this first issue that could help us sympathize or care about this individual. She’s just so flat and run-of-the-mail protagonist for this sort of story that she is just incredibly boring.
Given the angle, I can’t help but feel that Grapevine thing is staring at her butt.
Now we turn to Gillen’s writing and it is so-so here. Nine times out of ten, there’s no context given for any of the concepts or ideas presented in the issue. That leads to a story with a weak structure and foundation that can make things hard to buy into (they say Luiza’s personality type is bad, but the comic doesn’t explain why it’s bad). The pacing is acceptable and none of the scenes come across as too fast or slow. The story structure and transitioning are usually alright, but have some moments where scenes or panels don’t flow properly or have awkward cuts that are abrupt. The dialogue is alright and nothing felt stilted. Last thing to note is that for an Avatar comic, this was pretty tame by their usual standards. There was gratuitous gore at the end and some really dumb “adult” line, but surprisingly there wasn’t anything as awful as you would see in Crossed or God is Dead.
Now we turn to Omar Francia, providing the artwork. His style is a cross between Avatar Press’ own standard house style and Leinil Francis Yu’s own in some ways. You can sort of see that familiarity in the way Francia draws his characters and the sci-fi outfits and the little attention to detail and inking. Speaking of which, the characters are drawn decently enough and look fine overall with no odd body proportions. The layouts are alright, though some of the action looks awkward and doesn’t flow right (you see that a lot in the final scene of the comic). The colors look good and while the locations look like stock sets from any numerous sci-fi series, they are drawn pretty well and have good detail put into them. The only other thing that felt off was the characters’ faces. The faces tend to make the characters either look like they rapidly aged a lot of the times between panels or make a character incredibly very creepy when they smile due to the amount of lines or heavy inking put into them.
I’m pretty sure that’s not a complete sentence.
Is It Good?
Mercury Heat #1 is a bland and lackluster mess. It makes no attempt to try to engage and ease in readers to this new world and character remotely, the story is lackluster, the main character is a standard action hero that gives us nothing to work with in this issue, and there’s little to no context for anything happening in the comic. Now the writing isn’t too bad and there are some decent parts to artwork, but this is bad. If the comic explained things better or had a much more interesting character, this comic would be a lot better. In the end, Keiron Gillen has made far better comics with better first issues than this. Maybe come back later after more of the comic has come out, but right now, just ignore this book. It’s not worth your time in the slightest.