THE OVERMAN: Book 1
Writer: Scott Reed
Artist: Shane White
On Sale: December 2007
The Overman Book 1 is a science fiction mature readers title by Steve Reed and Shane White. Set Dec. 1, 2135 in PA this book attempts to set an eerie tone with a disclaimer and a mostly silent opening page with narrative about this being the end of the world, but the tone fails to come off. This kind of thing has been done so much in comics, most notably by Warren Ellis, that the melodrama feels almost comical. The narrative early is told first person by Nathan Fisher and has a distinctly noir feel, with the art reinforcing that. Nathan is searching for a giant macguffin of dubious purpose which he finds as the book opens, meaning said macguffin is guaranteed to be an impetus to the plot. The introduction story cuts off suddenly.
From there the book loses nearly all sense of narrative direction. In Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis used to add random bits of insanity, but they fit in around a distinct plot and the characters always came first. This is a weird attempt at that, but comes off largely as weirdness for weirdness sake. We have a character who was trapped in a â€œdemolator,â€ the earlier macguffin which is some kind of outlawed technology, which destroyed much of his humanity. This is clearly meant to be a big event, but the president is skin and bones, wearing no pants, living in some sort of cage, so the effect is dulled by comparison. The demolator suddenly wakes up and begins attacking the characters, again to no effect since we have no reason to care at all about any of them. Our main character, a Doctor in the psychiatric prison the demolator is kept in orders evacuation and escapes as the book closes.
As set up, this does not work. We have a big event, but it’s initiated rather haphazardly with characters we’re given no reason to care about. Rantings about the end of the world that begin the book don’t appear again, but fail to set the ominous tone intended, leaving the â€œwhat will happen?â€ that is supposed to drive this book with no real urgency. Without engaging characters, unless Sci-fi weirdness is your thing, there’s no draw to this. The opening issue needs a hook, and this plot lacks that.
The art is clear but seems to skip steps. When the creature that was in the demolator begins killing people it happens so quickly as to not convey any real sense of motion or action. This issue persists throughout the book, which defeats much of the emotion on the characters faces. This, again, would have more impact with clearly defined characters. The hook isn’t their survival, since they’re escaping as the book ends. A lot is built around what the macguffin in the epilogue is and the macguffin called a demolator might be, but since we’re given no reason to care, this book gets a pass from me.