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.
Character-wise I get that Tower is supposed to be the steely noir hero, but even Dick Tracey had emotion and depth. His unwitting tag along for half the book is a mere archetype of the hard lined, overcommitted, disbelieving, female FBI agent typified by Agent Scully. In fact, from the first frame you see of Agent Alicia Hardwicke both the visuals and descriptors are a clear take off of Dana. While I haven’t seen every episode of The X-Files, I doubt that Agent Scully ever had the presence of fashion to change clothes after an abduction, wield her firearm with anything less than textbook technique, and not wear underwear for the entirety of an extended mission. Even the drama, dialogue and styling would be better suited taking more nods from X-Files than Ghostbusters. Though a clear homage to Frank Miller’s Sin City, artistically they still have a long way to go. No, we don’t need pretty people; yes, late-’80s-early-’90s, roided out muscles are still far from uncommon within the confines of comics today. However, a clear lack of consistency in faces, lighting and textures is enough to spoil this book. Moody artistic backgrounds belie characters that are either doused in the full breadth of dramatic lighting or look like somebody accidentally ticked off the “use ambient lighting” option on the setup options screen. This works great when you can’t see your character deep into your favorite dungeon crawler VG; but again this doesn’t work in a comic when half your panels lack the mood the other half are trying to convey. Same thing goes for facial textures and basic character continuity. Even indoors, there must always be a breeze, as that’s the only logical explanation for why hair and hood position never remain similar from one panel to the next. If the intent with The Tower Chronicles was to create an original property with the kind of visceral cinematic style and memorable, relatable characters that would translate equally well to the printed page or silver screen then this bounty hunter missed the mark. It is not as stylistically interesting as 300 or emotionally as engaging as Watchmen to garner the kind of built-in audience numbers Hollywood looks for in green lighting a comic book movie. Though get Zack Snyder to direct, stretch the fights out with a bunch of ramped speed effects and Phantom Cam slow-mo and I’m sure they’ll turn a profit. As for the comic immediately available I can not justify reading four volumes per book in a planned trilogy to get any deeper with this character. Sadly, while I highly anticipated this enterprise, my journey through The Tower Chronicles ends here.