Stew’s Reviews: AdventureMan volume 1

It’s hard being in charge of a multimedia empire.

I mean… I assume it is. That’s not… I am not saying that I am that. In charge of one. Or having anything to do with one.

But I can picture it!

I have a podcast that comes out three times per month. I have a website that promises new articles every weekday. I stream some gameplay on Twitch whenever I can piece together the time. I do a lot of work on Twitter supporting other independent creators and doing what I can to grow the community and help any way I am able.

And, oh yeah, none of that pays a cent, so I also have my full time adult person job. And a wife who I enjoy spending time with. And three… cats. I mean, they ARE just cats, but we kind of dote on them because they are just the best.

The problem that comes with vowing other people won’t outwork you is that you have to, you know, WORK.

Anyway, the point is, I have precious little time for activities that don’t have an endgame to them, as it were. And one of the biggest things I’ve been missing out on has been reading comics.

Which… even that is my own fault. I have this series that I used to do weekly where I would read and review a classic (or at least not brand new) book, but my brain moves too quickly for me, and I’m notorious for juggling things on and off my current fascination list. I start something, do it for a while, then get new ideas and play with them for a while.

(Yes, my breakdown of Wizard’s Top 100 Single Issues DOES say “Hello”)

So I have not been reading many comics for fun, and I have not been reading many comics for reviews because I’ve been distracted by other shiny objects. I bumped my podcast up from two to three times per month, and that SHOULDN’T be substantially more work, but… it is somehow.

ANYWAY, I’m going to get back to reading more comics to review! This… creates more work for me. But it also… alleviates some? Because I can use the reviews as articles that I have to write anyway?

It kind of washes out.

I’ll just convince myself of that.

TITLE: Adventureman: The End And Everything After

Writer and Artist: Matt Fraction, Terry & Rachel Dodson

Publisher: Image

Protagonists: Claire and Tommy Connell

Antagonists: Baron and Baroness Bizarre

This beauty of an extra-large size hardcover had been sitting at my local comic shop (New Dimension Comics at the Waterfront in Pittsburgh!) for months, and I was never not enticed by it. Matt Fraction AND The Dodsons?! Well I love both of those things! And this was somehow only $25, a steal compared to most comparably sized books. After quite a bit of hemming and hawing, I finally bit the bullet and purchased it.

Man, it smells great! A sealed hardcover comic; it has this wonderful book odor that I hope never fades. This has nothing to do with the book, no, but I enjoy it; leave me be!

So Adventureman is the story of a single hearing-impaired mother, Claire Connell, and her son, Tommy. Together they enjoy a book series called Adventureman, which spins the tales of a heroic troupe known as Adventure Inc. The last title in the series ended with the ambiguous demise of Adventureman and his partners, much to Tommy’s chagrin.

A mysterious visitor to Claire’s bookstore brings her a new Adventureman book she had never heard of before, and mother and son begin to piece together new details that had never been revealed before, setting Claire on a date with destiny as she uncovers the actual headquarters of the supposedly fictional heroes… and meets two among their ranks!

While Claire is going through strange physical and mental changes brought on by the revelations from the book, Adventureman’s arch-nemesis, Baron Bizarre, plots his revenge from his prison of the Ultravoid!

Matt Fraction was the writer of the brilliant Hawkeye series and the wildly enjoyable Sex Criminals. Terry and Rachel Dodson are two of my absolute favorite artists ever, who just do a perfect blend of realistic style with cartoon bombast. What a tremendous marriage of talent!

Obviously this book looks amazing. Even with how spectacular the Dodsons are in typical settings, this book is clearly Terry and Rachel bringing their A-game. The extended Connell family that we meet–Claire’s father and siblings–are just as vibrant and flavorful as the fanciful heroes and villains of Claire’s Adventureman books. The scenes of the Connells eating dinner together are gorgeous, and the Dodsons just pack so many characters and details into a small setting; it really makes you FEEL like you are at a crowded table while you rad it.

The book transitions from a steampunk heroic setting to modern day New York City to a Lovecraftian void, and the Dodsons just make it all fit and feel like it all belongs in the same universe. I can’t stress enough that while I already adore their work and have been a fan for going on twenty years, this title gave me a newfound appreciation of their talents.

As for Fraction’s story, well this is the first volume of a book, and he has a lot of establishing to do. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the world being created really is interesting. I will say that some of the bigger mysteries are resolved (unless they are red herrings) by the end of volume 1, so it does leave me feeling a bit… “What’s left?”, but I know better than to doubt Matt’s work. I’m sure there are surprises aplenty from here.

The character of Claire is wonderful. One volume in, and I am entirely engaged in her. She is fun and lively, but also sympathetic. She thinks she is small compared to what her sisters have accomplished, and she has a treasure of a “trying-her-best” relationship with her son, who is clearly also her best friend.

Will I keep going with this series? I think so! It has a really creative idea driving it, and I have the utmost faith in Matt Fraction and The Dodsons as creators. I did say it seems like a lot of the mysteries are solved by the end of the first book (including what happened to Adventureman and Adventure Inc and how Claire ties into all of it), but the character work is high quality, especially assuming we get to know Claire’s siblings even more going forward!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

OVERALL

Truly fantastic art and a fun story that combines classic throwback elements with modern storytelling conventions. I’m a bit biased based on the creative team, but I had a good time with this!

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