The Revisionist #1
Written by Frank Barbiere
Illustrated by Garry Brown
Colored by Lauren Affe
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Published by AfterShock Comics
Time travel. If time travel was, is, or ever will be possible, then it's almost a certainty that there are a constant stream of people attempting to make changes to the timeline. Reality might have changed just now, and we'd have no idea (I'd know, I'm not sure about you though). It's a comforting idea to think that there's someone working to preserve reality and the timeline as we know it. Well, it's comforting so long as their idea of what the timeline should be matches our own. What if it isn't?
That's the hook behind the strong new series The Revisionist, from writer Frank Barbiere and artist Garry Brown. It's an engaging first issue with a hook that feels like an introspective Timecop meets Looper. While this first issue feels like more of an introduction, it provides a strong sense of the main character and his background, and begins to show the incredibly high stakes involved.
We first meet Martin Monroe as he's attempting to infiltrate a futuristic high-rise and take out a target, as he tells us about the lies we accept in our lives, his role in those lies, and the cost he has incurred as a protector of those lies and of the comfortable ignorance in which we live. There's quite a transition as we jump back in time to see Monroe as he's in his last day of prison. Scheduled to be released early on account of providing valuable information, things very much don't go his way. The story brings in more sci-fi elements that show how Martin is already connected to a much larger world, and by the end of the issue he's taking a literal leap of faith into that larger world.
I first became aware of Barbiere's work on the terrific Image series Five Ghosts. I loved the pulpy, old-fashioned adventure of that book, a tale of a classic adventurer and thief, but also a story that showed a larger world full of magic and mythology. I've also enjoyed Barbiere's work in other series, and I admire his ability to tell an engaging story and create relatable, profoundly human protagonists in diverse situations (pulpy anti-heroes, mob assassins, scientists mourning the departure of their family).
That strong sense of humanity continues here, as Monroe is a pretty compelling character after only a single issue. Someone who swore he'd never kill again, and is now what appears to be a time-traveling assassin who works to protect the time stream? That's a great hook. It's possible sometimes in a story involving a cool concept to get a little too involved in the mechanics of the idea, to spend too much time discussing physics or techno-babble. Thankfully Barbiere doesn't do any of that here, he keeps the focus squarely on the characters (where it belongs), while simultaneously showing a man who discovers a much larger, weirder world that's been hidden from him. In this way, Barbiere continues to explore a theme that he tackled in Five Ghosts; that is, exploration of a larger world that is unknown to most people. In that series, the main character's sister was in some way a casualty of his exploration of dark magic and power. Here, it's strongly hinted that Monroe has given up much (and had much taken from him) as a result of the effort to preserve our timeline. The theme of consequences is a strong one, and I'm very interested to see where Barbiere takes that here.
Brown and colorist Lauren Affe do terrific artistic work in telling the story of The Revisionist. I've been an admirer of Brown's work in books such as The Massive and Iron Patriot; he's got a diverse skill set and is a really solid visual storyteller. The sequential storytelling is pretty straightforward here but in interesting ways, as Brown lays out the initial scene of a page in a large panel and overlays the initial panel with smaller panels showing the subsequent action. It works well, as it keeps the eye moving. The first number of pages in the story are mostly narration as opposed to dialogue, and Brown does great work in demonstrating dramatic action that nicely complements the narration. Brown brings a pretty rough, scratchy line to the storytelling here. He's got a style that feels something like a rougher, more impressionistic Sean Murphy, and also a little like the work of artist Chris Mooneyham on Five Ghosts. All have a strong, rough line and do terrific work in conveying two-fisted action and dynamic movement.
Brown is aided tremendously by the color work of Lauren Affe. Affe worked with Mooneyham on Five Ghosts with Barbiere, and I appreciate the continuity here. In the initial pages set in the future, Affe provides a less-than-gleaming, somewhat muted and grounded color palate that provides a strong sense of darkness and atmosphere to the pages. This is a story which begins in what's ostensibly a gleaming future, but it's a story about a dark man who has to do dark things in order to protect the world as we know it. Some individual panels don't have much background, but in those instances Affe provides atmospheric coloring that often fits the mood, such as brighter, more intense colors for more intense scenes in the story. Overall the coloring has a more analog, old-school feel to it that suits the story well, as does the lettering from Dave Sharpe. The sound effects lettering in the issue has a great, hand-drawn quality to it that also made it feel like part of the story rather than an afterthought.
I've been looking forward to seeing the next big creator-owned story that Barbiere would take on, and I've been intrigued by the interesting, varied work that's being published by AfterShock Comics. Having very much enjoyed the first issue of The Revisionist, I think there's a lot of promise on both fronts.