Ist Issue Special #11
“Code Name: Assassin”
Writers: Gerry Conway & Steve Skeates
Pencils: Nestor Redondo & Frank Redondo
Inks: Al Milgrom
Cover artist: Mike Grell
Editors: Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: 25 cents
1st Issue Special was an odd series from DC, featuring a different property — sometimes new, as was the case with this issue, and sometimes established — with every new issue. This particular issue was notably weird, as the execution is so clumsy. This vigilante anti-hero follows a lot of the archetypal elements that one finds in such characters, but this is such a watered-down version of a revenge story that it leaves the reader scratching his or her head by the end of this unfinished 1976 story. I was entertained as I read this issue, mind you, but only for the unintentional amusement of such awkward writing.
Shortly after a lab accident grants him telepathic and telekinetic powers, Jonathan Drew sees his older sister gunned down in front of him in the street, the victim of a corrupt employer. He vows revenge and uses his new powers to expose the gangster responsible and to tear down his criminal organization. But little does he know that his target has hired his own super-powered muscle to take him down.
The Redondo brothers delivered some uneven art throughout this issue, reflecting a lot of different influences and making for inconsistent looks from page to page. Some elements (notably the telekinetic air-walking effects) reminded me a great deal of the style of the late Carmine Infantino, whereas other panels put me in mind of the work of Frank Robbins. Other aspects of the art are reminiscent of such artists’ styles as Ramonda Fradon and Joe Staton. The design for the title character is generic, and the V symbol on the top is meaningless. It makes me think this might have originally been intended as a Vigilante reboot (which would come in the 1980s, courtesy Marv Wolfman and George Perez). I like the Redondos design and presentation of the hired criminal Snake. He really does appear serpentine, and even his movements are convincingly lithe and slick.
Since Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway co-wrote this comic, I can only assume DC tasked him to come up with a similar anti-hero in that vein, but this is a terribly neutered vision of a costumed character bent on revenge. What kind of assassin kills no one? Why do the criminals call him the Assassin when he only uses non-lethal weapons and powers on his foes? Why does he have a code name if he’s just after one organization? How do the police know of Doctor Stone’s connection to the Assassin, and even his real name, and why do they do nothing with the information? Nothing about this concept and plot makes any sense.
In preparation for this review, my research revealed the property was brought back twice in more recent years, in James Robinson’s Starman series (which I didn’t recall) and in the “New Krypton” era of DC’s Superman line (which I didn’t read). I’m honestly surprised this footnote of a character was revived at all and I’m not at all surprised to learn he was given a harsher edge and even turned into a villain when he was finally brought back. DC should have left him to the forgotten annals of the medium’s history, and I hope it does so going forward. 3/10