Noble Volume 1 trade paperback
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artists: Roger Robinson, Jamal Igle & Robin Riggs
Colors: Juan Fernandez & Sotocolor
Letters: Saida Temoforte
Writers: Priest & Joseph Illidge
Artists: Marco Turini & Will Rosado
Colors: Jessica Kholinne
Letters: Andworld Design
Cover artist: Roger Robinson
Editor: Joseph Illidge
Publisher: Lion Forge
Price: $14.99 US
I’ve been meaning to delve into Lion Forge’s line of super-hero comics, designed in part to offer a stronger array of black characters to a market that’s clearly hungry for diversity in its escapism pop-culture (contrary to what a vocal minority might argue). To be honest, though, I haven’t been following comics news and release dates of emerging publishers and creators nearly as much as I used to, and some of the initial releases escaped my attention when they first hit the stands. So I was thrilled when I had the chance to read this first collected edition of the initial issues of Noble. There’s certainly an ambitious tone set here; like other super-hero startup lines, Lion Forge and editor Joseph Illidge have set out to building a larger, connected continuity, and based on the main story and the backup, titled “The Event,” they’ve done so in a meticulous manner. Part of me thinks such interconnections need to happen gradually, but that’s likely not feasible in modern comics publishing. Super-hero audiences crave and expect those links, and the mysterious framework set out here certainly seems to indicate Lion Forge is off to a strong start in terms of that creative endeavor.
God Shots: David Powell is an American hero, an astronaut presumed to be killed in a mission to save the Earth from an incoming asteroid. But he’s not dead, but he’s not the David Powell he once was anymore. He made it back to Earth, changed — altered and empowered, but also impaired in terms of memory. He’s on the run in South America, hiding from his former employers at the Foresight Corp. headed by the cold, calculating Lorena Payan, who has tasked skilled mercenaries to bring him in. Despite his need to keep a low profile, David can’t seem to help but step up and use his new abilities to protect the people around him. Meanwhile, someone else is looking for David, but her objective is far more personal and positive. Lucky for David, his wife, Astrid, is a woman with special skills and resources all her own, and nothing is going to stop her from reuniting the love of her life with his family.
I remember Roger Robinson’s work fondly from Batman: Gotham Knights in the late 1990s, but I really haven’t delved into his art since that project, as far as I can recall. I really enjoyed what he had to offer here. His work here is straightforward, clear and crisp, and his traditional super-hero style conveys the intensity and power inherent in the title character. There are times when his work here reminds me a bit of Ron Wagner’s style, and at others, of Denys Cowan’s. Jamal Igle and inker Robin Riggs offer from fill-in art in the fourth and final chapter of this main story (from the fourth issue of the regular series). While I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed Igle’s style, it marks such a shift from the tone Robinson established that it felt out of place. Igle offers a much more realistic vision of these characters, and some of the more dynamic qualities are lost in the process. It’s not a problem with his work, but something of a mismatch with the main artist’s style.
I must also note how much the colors contribute to the energy of this story, both literally and figuratively. The orange and yellow flames of an industrial explosion in one of the book’s many climatic scenes convincingly convey the heat and destruction of those moments, and I love the bluish-white effects used to represent the manifestation of David’s powers. But there are more subtle aspects of the colors that contribute as well, such as the blurred reds of a vehicle’s taillights as it speeds down a street. Of particular note is how the colorists create texture in backgrounds with a method that emulates the old-school Ben-Day dots coloring process.
Noble is designed to be an impressive physical specimen. His stature is imposing and impressive, and his power is clear in the physical action sequences. But just as important — and making for far cooler moments — are the mental manifestations of that power. His telekinetic abilities offer tenser, more exciting moments, as we see the character impose his will on the physical world around him. I suspect the balance between the physical and the mental in this character isn’t the least bit coincidental, and it depicts this man as being formidable in every respect, not just as a musclebound powerhouse.
The Event: This backup story delves into the catalyst for superhuman powers in this reality, and it reminds me of Marvel’s New Universe line of the 1980s a great deal. Mind you, that featured a cosmic “White Event” that bestowed powers on regular people, whereas this “Catalyst Prime” universe’s event might much more calculated. The main focus here is on Lorena Payan, one of the villains from the main story and the head of the Foresight Corp. This story serves to humanize her and reinforces what was driving these characters might not be so nefarious, but then that softer portrayal of Payan proves to be something of a twist to make the reveal later in the story pay off in a bigger way. Priest was an excellent choice as a co-writer for a story that’s clearly meant to tease a greater mystery. His trademark non-linear approach to storytelling is on full display here, and it serves to pique the reader’s interest rather than to confuse.
The visual style of the artists who crafted this latter story is rougher in tone and even grittier than what one finds in the main story. As such it was a bit off-putting. Marco Turini’s linework is a little awkward at times as well, erring every so slightly in terms of perspective and scale for a story aiming for a realistic feel. The colors are far more muted here than what we got in the main story. Despite the bombastic and bright tone of the visuals in that story, the creators curiously seem to be going for a more sullen, tenser tone here. The contrast between the two stories makes the backup piece seem out of place.
It’s been part of Lion Forge’s mission, like Milestone Media’s before it, to bring more cultural diversity to comics storytelling, and it’s definitely succeeded here. Like the key creative forces here, all of the main characters are people of color. Women occupy key roles as protagonists and antagonists. But those efforts would be for naught if there wasn’t a solid story to be told, and thankfully, there is. Despite the higher proportion of characters of color here, the book really doesn’t delve into issues of race. Lion Forge’s world is a place where women and POC have risen to positions of power, and it doesn’t dwell overtly on that fact. Essentially, it treats that dynamic as normal, as no big deal. It represents a new status quo for which society should be striving, a direction in which I thought Western society was headed before the rise of isolationism, xenophobia and the deceptively named “alt-right” in the last couple of years. 7/10
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