Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 11, 2013
Brain Boy dates back to Dell’s brief attempt at a superhero line in the early 60s. Gil Kane, one of the creators of the Silver Age Green Lantern and Atom, also co-created this character. So theoretically there’s history here. Sure, almost everybody has completely forgotten it, but those old comics were reissued a few years ago to remind us.
Brain Boy #0 fills in a bit of back story on the on-going monthly that debuted in September. You might wonder why a superhero that quickly failed at the height of the Silver Age would have a new monthly title in 2013, and I would point you to the regular posts at Deadline.com about Hollywood optioning the rights to an obscure superhero you’ve never heard of. There’s money in almost every IP, no matter how minor it might seem.
At least Brain Boy has highly competent creators guiding his new adventures. Fred Van Lente co-wrote one of the best recent superhero runs on The Incredible Hercules, where he capably mixed action and drama with the comic tone he showed off in Action Philosophers! and Comic Book History of Comics. Freddie Williams II’s art has shown a hyper-real sheen and cartoonish kineticism in books like The Flash (during Tom Peyer’s family foursome years) and Grant Morrison’s Mister Miracle. Their strengths made me interested in this comic, not the unknown character.
Brain Boy #0 isn’t the best work by either. It works fine as an introduction to the character, though, quickly filling in the high concept: Brain Boy is an orphan raised to be a powerful telepath by a private technology company and loaned out to the government as an all-purpose mental super agent. Van Lente’s humor shines through in Brain Boy’s chat with a customer service rep that gets the overly cordial and precise language of a call center script just right. It ends with a revelation that will surely dictate the direction of the regular monthly book for the foreseeable future. And Williams’ art is nondescript, other than the detailed face of the lead. It’s probably hard to make identically-dressed paramilitary goons stand out, but the action is flat and perfunctory, with a little too much gore.
Although solidly crafted, Brain Boy #0 feels uninspired, like it only exists because the name was available and maybe there’s some money in it down the road. That basically describes every superhero comic that’s ever existed, but there’s little of the excitement that Williams has brought to some of his previous books, or the cleverness and heart that Van Lente shows in Archer & Armstrong and the work that popped up throughout his Marvel run.