The Answer! #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton
Artist: Mike Norton
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: January 23, 2013
Only one question matters after reading the first issue of a new comic: does it make you want to read more? After reading The Answer! #1, my answer is a solid maybe.
The new superhero comic from Mike Norton and Dennis Hopeless tries to hook the reader with a series of mysteries, the most significant of which is “who or what is the Answer”. I assume he’s the muscular dude in the black body suit with the white exclamation point mask (he’s referred to as such once, by a cartoonish street punk straight out of one of the 80’s Death Wish sequels), but he’s definitely not the book’s lead, at least not in this issue. It’s also not clear what he’s capable of. He can jump and punch and won’t hesitate to shoot a violent crook in the crankcase. He can also either predict the future or just happens to be really well-informed, and he can either survive a gunshot to the face without any damage or else has a series of robot or clone back-ups that can spawn almost immediately. Maybe he’s a guy? Maybe he’s an alien guy? He’s definitely a guy-shaped being in a skintight suit and a mask, so there’s obviously a 50/50 shot he fights crime.
The main character here is Devin Mackenzie, a 30-year-old genius librarian who looks like every comic book or cartoon female genius—short hair, glasses, not a blonde. Devin’s so smart she can answer a bunch of easy Jeopardy questions while finishing a crossword puzzle and doing librarian stuff like holding a book. She’s so smart that no game or puzzle can keep her occupied for more than a few minutes. Her mom gives her a supposedly unsolvable puzzle for her 30th birthday (it looks like a giant 100-sided die crossed with a Rubik’s Cube) and she cracks it within three panels.
That puzzle sets the plot in motion and leads directly into another big mystery: who are the paramilitary guys who apparently want to kill Mackenzie? Solving the puzzle leads her to a Web site that leads to a series of even harder puzzles, which then leads to a library invasion by a flak-jacketed goon platoon. Enter the Answer and a host of questions. And hey, what’s going on with those cutaways to the Greek philosophy-inspired motivational seminars?
I’m a Mike Norton fan. He’s a solid pro at action, with a slight cartoonish hint that recalls the Marvel house style of the early 80s. He plots the book with scripter Dennis Hopeless, whose dialogue and internal monologues are a little too on-the-nose at times, but otherwise succeeds at making Devin sound like a real person living in the 21st century. All the ingredients for a thoroughly competent comic book are present, along with the promise of perhaps someday transcending basic competence. As a series introduction, though, this Answer! might be a bit too vague.