Legendary Comics? Not So Much.
Fifteen months ago at SDCC 2011 some of the most recognizable names in comics sat down at the same table and announced that Legendary Pictures, the studio that brought us 300, Batman Begins, and Inception (as well as a bunch of less memorable comic/sci-fi films, but not to dwell) was starting a print division. From writer Matt Wagner, “Legendary Comics is the first attempt by a Hollywood production house to acknowledge and celebrate the sibling affinity between these two dramatic art forms from the ground floor up.” Legendary Comics would be helmed by former DC editor Bob Schreck, their first printing would be a Frank Miller property, and their first original series would be a noir-esque tale based around a supernatural bounty hunter. Sadly, the result thus far has been far less The Dark Knight and way more Sucker Punch.
With comics and films sharing many similar characteristics (striking visuals, the capacity for non-linear storytelling, hinging on well developed and relatable characters) it seemed logical that a company could (and should) create its own characters, maintain rights going into shooting and have full control over the script. Just such licensing issues ensure, that while they are all Marvel properties, we will not be seeing any combination of X-Men, Avengers and/or Spidey on screen at the same time anytime soon. With many comic books (for better or worse) being translated into cinematic versions of the printed page anyway, why not experiment and allow the success or failure of an entire property hinge on one company? I don’t care how good the original script was, or that somebody dropped the ball in the adaption between the page and the screen; if the end product isn’t good and the whole endeavor was merely a paycheck, should it have been made?
The answer is no.
Enter Legendary Comics first original series, The Tower Chronicles. John Tower is an exclusive, highly specialized supernatural bounty hunter. Sounds like a decent enough premise if done right, and currently I’m willing to give more time to books outside the Big Two than in years past. Combine that and a striking cover laced with brilliant visuals by Jim Lee and I’m sold.
Thumbing through the first few pages, we’re treated to a chase scene that plays out like a cross betweenAssassins Creed and Devil May Cry. Sadly, that is not where the parallel between video games and this book ends. Dialogue is completely expository in driving forward a thin plot based more on cool visuals than character interaction and development. At the end of 72 pages I’m not invested in John Tower, and the hook they leave out deftly misses. To use some of Legendary’s own properties as descriptors, they were clearly aiming for Nolan styling and nuance, but wound up with Snyder dialogue and bash-you-over-the-head sense of subtlety.
When you couple TC’s underwhelming first volume with Frank Miller’s universally panned Holy Terror; Legendary Comics’ year one debut seems decidedly less than, well, legendary.