Z-Blade XX is a new comic from Atomic Basement written by Steve Palmer and illustrated by Guy Lemay. It's a slickly-produced book — nice colors, thick paper, etc. But for a first issue of a new character, it's not particularly satisfying. It's also, unfortunately, filled with a few unnecessary swear words and some visuals of explicit violence to be a good read for kids who might otherwise enjoy the straightforward story. All in all, I know I sound like a broken record sometimes, but this is another project where putting it on the web and working on it with more immediate feedback might have led to a stronger story.
Let's start with the artwork since that's where my most positive comments are. To start off with, I will say that I think the character design for the costumed Z-Blade is well done, with the caveat that at first it reminded me a bit of the look of Doctor Fate from DC Comics. Guy Lemay certainly has some good work in this book – however, it's a bit simplistic, giving it too much of a Saturday morning cartoon feel. And sometimes it just felt a bit lazy and off, like the female news anchor on page 9. It is relatively consistent and for the most part Lemay doesn't seem to take on any visuals and fail, but on the other hand there's no images in there that really stuck with me from the book. I do fault the dream/flashback sequence from pages 18-19 a bit though – it has a muted color sequence but otherwise Lemay doesn't do much to impart visually that this part is in Z-Blade's head.
The writing is another matter as Steve Palmer has delivered a script that's both underbaked and just a bit messy to follow. The opening bit of Z-Blade breaking up a bank robbery by the "Disco Brawlers" is… well it's great that you start off with an action sequence and avoid making us sludge through exposition on the origins of the hero but it's just kind of boring. I'm not sure there's any fresh jokes left to be made about "disco" at this point, but this book doesn't make them. It also sets up a light-hearted, let's laugh at superheroes kind of vibe in these first five pages that the rest of the book doesn't really follow through on. You can't use Adam West and Christian Bale in the same Batman flick.
The rest of the book is Z-Blade versus a madman named Lawrence Greenfield, aka Insomniac, which is kind of pointless to be blunt. Insomniac's seeming superpower is extra time to get stuff done because…. he doesn't sleep. There's also some hint that he's a genius now due to crazy experiments in the asylum he broke out of. Here's the basic action: he throws Z-Blade against something with "High Voltage" on it in the middle of nowhere which knocks out Z-Blade for a little while. Z-Blade's armor though is so badass that Insomniac can't do a thing to Z-Blade during the time he's knocked out. And so when Z-Blade wakes up he beats the dude up and so Insomiac is once again behind bars. Still making creepy threats, but behind bars. I'm not sure we ever know why Insomiac did anything in this book.
Palmer had many opportunities to work more of the Z-Blade mythos into this initial story. I'm happy it's not a traditional origin story but we just don't learn much about Z-Blade in this book. We do learn that "z particles" have something to do with his strength but it's not clear what they're supposed to be (or whether they're his "power" or just a special kind of finger-print for his super suit) or where they came from. Why is he doing any of this? Who does he work for? We don't have to learn everything about a character in the first book but it would have been effective to learn a little bit more and to use more of it throughout the story.
The publisher provided a free copy of this book to ComixTalk for review purposes.