June 30, 2012

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Hypernaturals #1

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Illustrated by Brad Walker, Andres Guinaldo, and others
Boom! Studios

The Hypernaturals, a multi-generational team, protects humanity against all threats, changing members over time but always sticking to the same mission.  But what happens when the whole team mysteriously vanishes, leaving only rejects and retirees to save the lives of billions?  Find out in the story of the Hypernaturals.

Hypernaturals is exactly the kind of comic I shouldn't like.  It's set in space, written to be a space opera, and features umpteen references and jargon that's designed to evoke science while still remaining in the realm of fiction.  It's the bread and butter of Abnett and Lanning, often referred to as the writing team of "DnA" but it's not something that's ever really stuck with me in the past.

For some reason, however, Hypernaturals overcomes the things I tend to avoid in comics, hooking me into the story, even as I wince a bit when curse words are made unnecessarily clever or dialog box arrows point to technological marvels, both of which happen in this issue.  I'm a sucker for comics where unlikely teams are formed to stop a major threat, whether it's a set of Reserve Avengers, B-Team Justice Leaguers, or even just a story where the sidekick has to save the day.  Among all this wonder and technology, no one expected the main team to ever need backups and now the whole civilization may depend on a guy who's too uncertain of his powers or a former hero turned into a PR flunkie cougar.  It's such a great idea, even if it has its roots in the Cap-Hawkeye-Quicksilver-Scarlet Witch Avengers, that I don't mind rolling my eyes as characters spout off neo-Heinlein terminology.

It also helps that Abnett and Lanning come up with some great moments, when they aren't trying to show off their science fiction chops too hard.  The way they plant the idea of the big bad at the end of the issue reminded me of something from Mark Waid's Irredeemable, for example.  I also like the way that the different players are introduced, with a lot of little ideas planted that are sure to pay off as the story progresses.  Halfshell is a hoot, as she spouts off about why she wasn't selected for the original team, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it saved her life.  (It also allows the writing team to tweak the nose of modern comics in the process, which I admit I almost never get tired of when it's done so cleverly.)  There is a lot of solid, quality dialogue in Hypernaturals, but it is buried a bit in the technobabble.

I'm not a big fan of the art so far, and it's not helped by having the main artist, Guinaldo, aided by two others.  (Why is it so hard for an artist to finish a book anymore?).  The opening action scenes are a bit confusing to follow and I feel like the layouts are too busy, as the artists try to keep up with the plethora of things the writers throw at the reader.  Using a color palette heavy on blue makes matters worse.  We're also buried in speech bubbles, which doesn't help matters any.  I'm hoping the visuals improve over time, as either Abnett and Lanning cut down on the talking/explaining or Guinaldo adjusts to making room for them.

Hypernaturals is a slam-dunk for hard sci-fi fans, and anyone who fits that description will love it.  I'm in as long as the concept and characters keep interesting me, but I admit the art and hard sci-fi talk makes this one a bit hard to recommend right now.  I liked it more than this review probably indicates, but it does feature a lot of things that make it a work in progress.  How tolerant you are of these issues will determine if this is a book you pick up or take a pass on.  In my opinion, it's worth trying to see what you think.