Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dynamo 5

Jay Faerber's new Image Comics series Dynamo 5 has become an unlikely hit, which pleases me, since I've been following Faerber's work for some time now. He's a solid old-school superhero writer who for whatever reasons missed breaking into the big leagues at Marvel and DC, and instead of conceding defeat or continuing to knock on closed doors (although for all I know he's sending pitches to the two companies every other day), he just went off and created his own superheroes himself. With Noble Causes and now Dynamo 5 (as well as occasional one-shots and miniseries), Faerber has carved out a nice niche for himself at Image, proof that you don't have to work at one of the big corporations if you want to tell classic superhero stories, and you don't have to stay away from that genre if you want to create a successful indie comic.

Actually, Noble Causes continues to struggle; it's about to go on hiatus for five months and then launch with a five-year time jump and a new direction. But the reason it's getting this extra push is because of the success of Dynamo 5, which has completed seven issues that will be collected into a handy trade in stores the same day as issue eight. It's such a success that it's doing something nearly unheard-of in modern comics: lowering the cover price, as of the next issue. Faerber's solid writing and the dynamic, fluid art of Mahmud A. Asrar have no doubt kept people's interest, but what brings them in in the first place is simply a great hook.

Faerber introduces a dead Superman archetype named Captain Dynamo, who fathered at least five illegitimate children, each with one of his primary powers. The children, who only learn of each other and their unconventional parentage after their father's death, are recruited by Captain Dynamo's widow to form an unlikely team of heroes. It's a unique and instantly grabby premise, far more immediately gratifying than Noble Causes' "superhero Kennedys" (which I think is a pretty good concept as well, though, and I'm disappointed that they're getting away from it). Faerber does a good job of marrying the more mature superhero storytelling of books like Powers (the philandering, inconsiderate hero who only seems like a "good guy") to the time-honored, iconic style of the Marvel Comics tradition (colorfully attired heroes beat up goofy villains, angst over their personal problems). It's modern without seeming cynical, classic without seeming quaint, and rife with possibilities. Faerber has already put his soap-opera chops to good use by introducing yet another illegitimate half-sibling, forced amnesia and a character falling into a coma - and that's just in the most recent issue!

You'd never refer to anything that Faerber does as groundbreaking; he's no Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison. But he's also nearly in a class all his own, writing old-fashioned superhero yarns that manage to feel fresh without engaging in jaded deconstructionism. Dynamo 5 is a fun, smart book with stories told in bright colors and broad strokes, and it's proof that creativity and innovation can still exist in the superhero genre, without having to either resurrect old icons, or tear them down.

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