Nieto reviews the first issue of Phil Hester's new Boom! Studios ongoing, due out Wednesday 14th October.
The Anchor #1
Written by Phil Hester
Drawn by Brian Churilla
24pgs, FC, SRP: $3.99
COVER A & B: Brian Churilla
Diamond Code: AUG090716
THE ANCHOR. Holy warrior, unholy war. Freak of nature, beast of burden, hulking outcast, medieval prize fighter, Viking raider… God’s own leg-breaker. One thousand years ago a hulking outcast sought refuge in the crumbling ruins of an ancient monastery and offered in return the one thing he had to give - his fists. Transformed into an immortal warrior monk standing at the gates of Hell itself to keep our world free from its invading armies, The Anchor is mysteriously tricked into centuries of slumber. But today, this holy warrior rises to battle all the unholy monsters unleashed during his slumber. Cataclysmic action, quirky humor, and profound pathos for fans of HELLBOY and THE GOON. A new BOOM! ongoing series, brought to you by Eisner Award-nominated writer/artist Phil Hester (GREEN ARROW, SWAMP THING, THE COFFIN, FIREBREATHER, THE DARKNESS) and fan-favorite artist Brian Churilla (REX MUNDI, THE ENGINEER, CREEPY).
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. On the one hand, the premise (as summarised above) piqued my interest - I'm a mark for mythology and folklore, and this seemed to be right up my alley in that respect. On the other, I can't say I've ever read anything that Phil Hester has written. I've been a fan of his artwork since his Swamp Thing run with Mark Millar, but to me his writing was an unknown quantity. Still, Boom is quickly establishing itself as the most exciting new Indie since the halcyon days of First and Comico so I was more than happy to give this a whirl as I've learned to trust Mark Waid's judgment.
And to an extent, it was worth it. The problem, for me, lies not in the story itself but in the above synopsis: it gives far too much away. In fact, it gives away plot points that are not actually revealed in this issue. As far as the main protagonist goes, Hester is playing his cards close to his chest and trying to establish an intriguing premise and world for his characters. We learn little about the title character in this book, other than that he appears to be on two sperate spiritual plains at once - we don't even learn his name (a supporting character nicknames him 'Clem' for want of something proper to call him). I wonder if the creators find the solicitation text as frustrating as I do seeing as it appear to rob the character and story of so much mystery?
Still, the tale is well told and the set up is interesting enough for me to want to come back to see how the (rather abrupt) cliffhanger is resolved next issue. If I were to have one complaint it would be with the spareness of the dialogue and the fact that I'm not sure that the characters have distinctive voices yet, though one assumes that will come with future issues.
On the other hand, I'm less than enthused about Brian Churilla's artwork. He seems on sturdier ground with the more grotesque and fantastical characters to be sure, but his humans seem far too cartoony, especially facially: it takes one out of the moment, as if a funny animal had just wandered into a Vertigo book unannounced. One page in particular, in which a character is covered with arterial spray is supposed to surprise and horrify, but is so poorly rendered and out of proportion that it just comes across as bathetic: what should actually be rather horrific comes across as bland and easily-missed. Not a good thing.
I wonder if Churilla may need a stronger inker than he himself can manage over his own pencils. Either way, I'm not sold on him. He's not quite a deal-breaker yet, but I can see that he may become one.
So, all in all rather a mixed bag here. I'd give the book a guarded thumbs-up, with the caveat that the art and pacing probably need to improve if The Anchor is going to hold my interest. Still, I'm more than happy to suggest that people give this a look for now. Also, Mark Waid may want to have a quiet word with his solicitation copywriters.
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