Wayne Russell is an elite pararescue jumper in the Air Force serving in Afghanistan. He leads the most rigorously trained troops on the most dangerous missions into enemy territory. During a deadly mission, Wayne’s team is ambushed. Mortally wounded, Wayne finds and fires an experimental weapon, but the weapon malfunctions. The result will change Wayne and warfare forever.
I vaguely remember hearing about this when it was first announced, sometime back in 2010. But then, for whatever reason, it fell under my radar and I never got it. Well now, thanks to the wonders of digital distribution, I have corrected my mistake and have no read this title. It is a 4-issue miniseries, created by Alex Ross. Jai Nitz was brought in to help Ross flesh-out the plot and then write the scripts, with Wilson Tortosa on art.
The series starts off with a bang, quite literally. We’re in the middle of the desert watching two super-powered beings, one in some kind of armored suit and the other in rags, punch and blasting each other with some kind of sonic blasts. It’s six pages of back and forth, while the narrator waxes nostalgic about some of his favorite albums from his childhood. It’s a lesson of the connection between George Clinton and David Bowie, with some Afrika Bambaataa thrown in, as these titans clash. The captain says that this is taking place “tomorrow.”
Then we flash back to a year earlier and properly meet out lead. Wayne Russell is stationed in Afghanistan with his team of parajumpers. On a rescue mission his team are ambushed by an Afghani sniper. Wayne himself is shot and while bleeding to death he finds some weird-looking gun, which he just picks up and shoots at the sniper, the gun shoots a blast of blue energy that not only blows the sniper but also blows Wayne up. We see Wayne’s body ripped apart in a burst of the blue energy and then re-assemble itself and he suddenly finds himself standing naked, with glowing blue eyes, in front of his home, and the date on the newspaper shows that a year has passed.
Wayne learns that in the year that passed, he’s been listed as M.I.A. by the military, meaning his wife didn’t get any insurance or pension so she had to sell their home and move with their two young sons to an apartment in a tough neighborhood, where their oldest son has reluctantly joined a gang. Wayne quickly comes into conflict with the gang, using his newfound sound-based powers to fight them. But the leader of this particular gang is smarter than most, and has a scientist on his payroll who deduces a way to neutralize Wayne’s powers, and they lead him to another potential ambush. But it’s not just the local gang that’s after Wayne, the military has tracked him down and they want him back. It turns out that the sniper Wayne shot is also back, with sound-based powers, and is using them to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, and they want Wayne to go back to fight him, bringing us back to the opening fight-scene of the series.
I found this to be an enjoyable story. Perhaps a little bit too short, at only four issues. It feels like more time could have been dedicated to Wayne reuniting with his wife and kids, adjusting to his new life and his newfound powers (which he seemed to get the hang of rather quickly) and taking on the local gang as a masked crimefighter. And then moving on to the story of Wayne being recruited by the government to go back to Afghanistan to face the supervillain, which could be a whole separate storyarc in itself. The story ends satisfactorily, while still leaving it open for possible future stories. The secret intelligence agency that was presumably behind the creation of the special gun that gave Wayne his powers is still monitoring him for their own purposes, and Wayne is about to take a more traditional superhero role with his powers.
This is great concept by Ross, and Nitz does a good job with the script, giving us plenty of insights into Wayne’s character and background through his narration. Which is why I would like to see more of Wayne’s personal life explored, because he seems like an interesting character even without powers. Tortosa’s art was decent. It’s a little rough in some area, particularly when just drawing standard panels, but when the story gets to the action scenes he’s much more capable, it all looks very exciting. I really hope we get to see a return of this title someday.
Chacebook rating: FOUR STARS
Available digitally as a collected edition for $6.99 on Comixology
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