Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Gary Frank, Erik Larsen & Jason Fabok
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I’d heard something about Geiger in passing a while back, so when I caught a glimpse of it among the new releases this week at the comic shop, I grabbed a copy. I’ve followed writer Geoff Johns’s career for a couple of decades now, and for the most part, his work either managed to entertain and really resonate with me. But what really piqued my interest was his decision to delve into a creator-owned property outside of DC Comics, even as his creative career has been wholly linked to that comics publisher and other-media adaptations of its characters (and continues to be, as far as I can tell). Geiger is the kind of story that works better outside of the confines of a shared super-hero continuity despite boasting of the conventions of the genre. Ultimately, Geiger is a solid read, diverting and riveting when it opts to embrace a thoroughly dark tone, but the storytelling here feels like a patchwork of influences, a Frankenstein’s Monster of pop culture.
Twenty years after nukes detonated on American soil, a once proud society shambles on, scrounging for food and other supplies in a barren wasteland. It’s a new world, complete with its own legends, including a myth about a glowing man who walks the bomb-blown terrain without the benefit of a radiation suit. But when a couple of ruthless scavengers happen upon the hooded figure of Tariq Geiger, they soon learn the myth is actually a man, who’s safeguarding the most important thing imaginable.
Gary Frank and Johns have been frequent collaborators over the years, notably with such stories as “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” and Doomsday Clock, and I’ve found Frank’s detailed, realistic style has always brought more gravitas to Johns’s stories of gods walking the earth. That holds true here as well. But the most riveting scene visually in this issue is the one set before the apocalyptic event that serves as the catalyst for the plot. It’s the most down to earth element in the story, but its plausibility makes it all the more horrific. And Frank’s convincing visuals convey the fragility of the protagonist in a moment of crisis, and as well as the evil intensity of the threat he faces in a pivotal moment.
Geiger reminded me of Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan” storyline from Wolverine years ago. Elements immediately called Watchmen to mind as well, given the loner nature of the hero of the story and his quiet, creepy consumption of canned beans (but since Johns evoked that notion in Doomsday Clock, a Watchmen riff likely came easily, even unconsciously to him). It brings Mad Max to mind. Game of Thrones. The plot isn’t stolen, as there’s a certain novelty to the core concept. But Geiger seems like a cool car that’s been made up of mish-mash of parts from other cars, vehicles and maybe even a rusted-out battleship. Johns doesn’t hide his influences, but neither does he get them to fit together seamlessly.
The writer’s emergence from the safety and comfort of the DC brand is one of the most interesting things about this comic book to me. Not the story, per se, but a chance to witness a new creative path for someone whose career is so intertwined with established and iconic intellectual properties. Johns has been removed from the sense of nostalgia that he’s mined so well for years, it’s interesting to see how he fares. And like I said, given the apparent influences at play here, he’s still using the sense of the familiar to connect with his audience, albeit in a much different and indirect way.
Ultimately, the main character’s motivation is what’s compelling about the story. The premise is a nightmarish one, but difficult to which to relate. But what drives the protagonist, that’s relatable, as is his loneliness, his sense of necessary isolation. Hell, just about all of us can understand that sense of being cut off from what’s familiar and important to us after the past year. 7/10