Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prime #2

Prime #2, July 1993, Malibu Comics
writers: Gerard Jones & Len Strazewski
artist: Norm Breyfogle
letterer: Tim Eldred
colorist: Keith Conroy
editor: Chris Ulm

Blogger's note: Entry for Sunday, February 24, 2008.

In the context of reading and reviewing a different issue from a different series every day for a year, I thought that revisiting a few titles from A Comic A Day: Year One would be a refreshing opportunity to further explore some of the stories or concepts I experienced during that first exciting 365-day analysis. Unfortunately, this sophomore effort hasn't been as liberating as I'd hoped; first of all, I read many of these comic books over a year ago, and assuming I've read well over a thousand comics since then (combining my A Comic A Day reads with my personal monthly purchases, not to mention everything else I've read lately), I can't even remember some of these titles' most important details. Of course I remembered that Shatter billed itself "the first computerized comic," but until I read my old review I'd forgotten its inclusion of RNA-oriented crime or its coincidental connection to Utopiates. I guess even alternate versions of the future can be lost in the annals of the past.

When I recently found Prime #2 in a four-for-a-buck back issue bin, I was excited for the chance to re-review this Norm Breyfogle vehicle. I've said it plenty of times before: I'm a huge Norm Breyfogle fan, and, to summarize, I feel that this runs on Detective Comics and Batman are the most underwritten in the caped crusader's crowd of contributors. Breyfogle pencilled Detective on the heels of The Dark Knight Returns' unprecedented success, then moved to Batman in the thick of the Tim Burton film franchise. In the midst of this mainstream success, his interpretation of the Batman family never wavered from honoring their comic book roots, and Breyfogle's art flourished into a style that suited the '90s-era dynamic duo. So, when I looked up my review of Prime #1, I expected to find it lavished with such fanboy praise.

How could I remember that I had just flipped through The Dark Age: Grim, Great & Gimmicky Post-Modern Comics by Mark Voger which documented the crossover-ridden, kill-'em-off mentality that began with Crisis on Infinite Earths? Who would've thought that I'd compare the work of one of my top ten favorite artists (hm, a list I should compile someday) to one of my least favorite trends in comics? Ah, therein lies another lesson about reading a comic a day, young ones: one's reviews are often susceptible to other daily media influences, like the news, talk radio (see Saturday's Leo Laporte reference), and entertainment. Indeed, these stimuli could even overshadow fanboy adoration, like mine for Breyfogle.

So, did this influence extend to my second impression of Prime? No, I really didn't liken Prime #2 to its "grim 'n gritty" peers of the early 1990s. Instead, this issue's plot reminded me more of the early 1960s, specifically the Stan Lee movement to ground fantastic superhero characters with a pedestrian, even awkward civilian identity. Ben Grimm, Peter Parker, and Matt Murdock all had very tangible flaws, either physical or emotional, and in the case of Prime's alter ego, Kevin Green, his brute strength in one persona is matched only by his social inadequacies as the other. Kevin is pure Peter Parker, even willing a Hulk-like transformation into Prime to impress, and inevitably put in harm's way, the girl he likes. Waiting for Prime to ping their radar, the shadow agency tracking him unleashes Organism 8, a toothy blob that manages to capture our musclebound hero. The darkest part of this entire issue is Kevin's adolescent angst and his inability to gauge the consequences of his actions. If that's what makes for grim 'n grit, we all through that Deathblow stage in our lives.

What I'm saying is, this issue really didn't offer anything new to the strata of comics. It's a fairly entertaining read, but so is the dozens of other series or characters that follow the same pattern. Essentially, Prime is Peter Parker-meets-Billy Batson that turns into the Hulk-meets-Captain Marvel. Prime's slimy origin is perhaps the only distinguishing feature within the realm of the story (unless it takes a Captain America/government secret soldier spin); on the other hand, Norm Breyfogle's art is the only compelling contribution in the issue's overall presentation. Gratefully, the writers didn't attempt to infuse scenes about Kevin's awkwardness with campy '90s dialogue; the high school sequence is in fact almost timeless in its presentation, as if Lee and Ditko had composed it themselves. The only reason I have to pick up more issues of Prime is to finally complete my Breyfogle collection.

Perhaps that's the irony of the A Comic A Day challenge. Coming up with a new thought to write about a series might be as difficult as implementing an idea for one.

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