Writers: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini & Hans Rodionoff
Artist: J.G. Miranda
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Leonardo Colapietro/Sheldon Goh & Sanju Nivangune
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
Whenever Zenescope Entertainment releases a new comic that doesn’t feature a buxom, scantily-clad heroine plucked from fabled stories, it prompts me to pause and take a look. While it’s clear the foundation of the publisher’s business is on such good-girl/bad-girl comics, I always hold out hope it might have something more to offer, something more interesting and less superficial. Conspiracy certainly goes against Zenescope’s usual focus, but doesn’t mean there’s greater depth or quality to be found here instead. Conspiracy is a clumsy exploration of conspiracy theories, lacking the complexity and intelligence necessary to make such far-fetched concepts palatable or plausible. The writers seems to focus exclusively on establishing a foreboding atmosphere, and the plot suffers as a result. The art, meanwhile, is serviceable but ultimately unremarkable.
After earning an Oscar for a heralded supporting role last year, Liam Jackson’s star is rocketing in Hollywood, even moreso now that there’s buzz about another acting award, this time for a leading role. And now is the time when a secret society approaches him and asks for his co-operation in its manipulations of the world. Liam trusts in his talent more than the hidden manipulations of behind-the-scenes forces, and that could prove to be his undoing.
J.G. Miranda’s artwork exhibits evidence of how key an influence Todd McFarlane was on him, though he’s definitely not just aping the Spawn creator’s style. The art is capable, but it lacks polish. His backgrounds are often lacking, and his sense of perspective seems off. For example, what should be settings that seem confining (the interior of a limo, or a cheap apartment) instead seem to offer too much space. Miranda does a good job of establishing a creepy atmosphere, especially in the unsettling party scene at the end of the issue. However, it strikes me that while there’s a nice diversity in character design here, one never gets a sets of characters’ ages.
From a publishing perspective, Zenescope has definitely made a couple of missteps with this comic book. First of all, the cover design and logo make this look as though it’s a self-contained story. It looks like this is one-shot titled Conspiracy: Doppelgänger, whereas it’s really the second issue of a series (as the indicia inside indicates). Furthermore, given the simpler nature of the storytelling here, it hardly feels like the reader is getting five bucks’ worth of value from the content.
I found Liam Jackson to be an interesting character. He’s ambitious and talented, and he believes in himself. A key scene has him in the audience of his movie premiere, genuinely moved by the scene unfolding on the screen. He also doesn’t buy into the dark machinations that present themselves to him and make demands, which is something to which I could relate. Unfortunately, some of the execution here is lacking. For example, the dialogue he finds so touching in his film comes off as rather hackneyed; it’s not moving, it’s cliched, and that hampers the effectiveness of that moment the character experiences.
As I’ve noted, conspiracy theories are something that just don’t work me, but they just don’t work, period. While I’ve been entertained by such plots in pop culture in the past, this wasn’t one of those instances. The doppelgänger plot referred to in the story’s title comes into play at the end of the issue, but it’s a backup plan. The notion that such an elaborate move is ready at a moment’s notice without knowing if it’s even needed is rather ludicrous. Of course, the conspiracies in the real world — which are ones driving the plot and characters here — are loopy in the first place. I’ve dealt with people espousing conspiracy theories, and at the root of them, invariably, is mental illness. Tenuous connections are seen as irrefutable proof, personal opinions presented as fact. Taylor, the female protagonist delving into a conspiracy in this story, sounds just like that. Given my own experiences, I find it hard to view her as admirable and driven, and rather view her as obsessed as deluded. Undoubtedly, that’s not the creators’ intent here, but the complexity and nuance needed to sell this concept just aren’t to be found in this comic book. 3/10
Note: This comic is slated for release Jan. 9.