Michael Avon Oeming goes it alone with his new dark superhero tale, The Victories!
"Tomorrow I'll do better. That's all a hero can do. Try better tomorrow."
He is Faustus, the dark avenger swooping down in the night to fight evil. With his cape, mask, and fighting prowess, he is ready to face off against his enemy, who just got through decapitating a man and forcing his victim's wife to watch (what he then does to the body only makes things more disgusting). Who is this vile fiend? The Jackal, and he's...another superhero?
Putting his spin on the "superheroes in the real world" subgenre, as well as the clash of ideologies that often comes out of such stories, writer/artist Michael Avon Oeming confindently strides into the creation of a new story that reexamines issues of violence and idealism in superhero comics. In The Victories #1, Oeming's plot focues on two costumed vigilantes, one who's exceptionally violent and the other who tries to be a hero more in the classic mold. Their approaches to crime-fighting couldn't be more different, yet both characters exhibit the hardened idealism required to pursue such a life. They're also tortured in their own way. The Jackal, who believes in administering a lethal form of justice, is obsessed with his ideas of self-actualization through the prism of how best to combat crime in his city. Faustus, on the other hand, is having trouble reaching the heroic bar he's setting for himself. His feelings of inadequacy are weighing heavily on him, and this vulnerability is particularly potent.
The most remarkable thing about The Victories #1 is the way the moments that occur later in the issue create greater context for the pervious pages. Not everything we see in the fight scene that takes up most of the issue is what we think it is. It's a superbly constructed first issue, one which establishes not only the main conflict at the heart of the story, but it also efficiently defines the world of the characters. There's a dark soulfulness to Oeming's pencils, which take an abstracted view of the city and the characters of the story. The crooked lines, dense panel layouts, and intense chiaroscuro all embody the bold, brutal ideas behind The Victories; furthermore, Oeming stages his action beautifully. With meticulously designed pages and dynamic camera angles, the issue simply has a great look to it. Obviously, the inky blackness is reminiscient of Oeming's work on Powers, but working from his own script allows him to open things up and makes things more personal. The crispness of Nick Filardi's cool colors and the impact of the warm colors really lend themselves to the brutal atmosphere of the story.
The Victories #1 works so well because it is a singular and uniquely executed take on an old premise. It's clever and impressive, and is marked by a hard-driving juggernaut of a plot. That plot gives way to incisive character study, and sets up the conflict for future issues. It's compelling and fantastic to look at. It's a foul-mouthed, tough talking superhero story with real depth to be found underneath. As an intriguing introduction to a specific and lively world, the issue is an unqualified success. Here's hoping the rest of the series lives up to what's been set up here.