COMICS: John Reviews “Talent” by Tom Sniegoski, Christopher Golden and Paul Azaceta

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As the comics world looks with increasing frequency to Hollywood for new writing talent, the market seems ripe for comic books that read more like movies (and in more genres than “comic book movie.”)  BOOM! Studios is at the forefront of this movement, breaking new ground in blending the comic and TV worlds.  Enter Talent, written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski and illustrated by Paul Azaceta.

The story to Talent may seem familiar to fans of Lost and the Bourne series, with a touch of the Dead Zone:  When Flight 654 crashes, Nicholas Dane finds himself in an unusual situation.  Not only was he the sole survivor, but he keeps experiencing flashbacks to moments in the lives of the other passengers.  Stranger still, he develops the talents of each one, fromolympic-level boxing prowess to origami to mercenary killing techniques.  Occasionally guided by a mysterious stranger, Nicholas finds himself on the run from a very mysterious and powerful group of people who think his survival was a miracle, and don’t care for miracles.

Talent reads exactly like a movie or TV show; a veritable illustrated script.  This has its advantages as well as its drawbacks.  The pacing is excellent and very familiar, and people who don’t read comics may well feel more at home with a book like this than with the latest arc of Hellboy or Amazing Spider-Man.   The unfortunate drawback is that there are many dialogue-heavy scenes, which often become pages of talking heads and too many word balloons.  It’s not quite as bad as those gawd-awful educational comics explaining the U.S. Federal Reserve System (remember those? I wish I didn’t!)  but it is a far cry from a more “typical” comic.  When reading it, I felt that the biggest drawback of Talent was its length: It had roughly 96 pages to tell a story that seemed destined to unfold throughout a 24-epsiode television season.  The big questions are barely even addressed, let alone answered, and the fact that I haven’t heard anything about future volumes of the series has me fearing that they never will be.  If you like stories that lay all the cards on the table, Talent will leave you very disappointed. Then again, it makes perfect sense for a book about shadowy Illuminati-esque conspiracies to leave its readers in the dark.

I enjoyed Paul Azaceta’s artwork, in large part because of his heavy line work.  The thicker lines frequently made the panels look reminiscent of stained glass, which is a technique I rarely see in the comics I read.  Ron Riley’s colors work best when scenes are in bright locations or feature explosive action, but tend to blend together and become confusingly muddled in night scenes, frequently interrupting the flow of the narrative by forcing the reader to stop and pick out exactly who is saying what. Then again, that could have been my own personal difficulty and not indicative of the average reading experience.  As always, your mileage may vary.

In blatant acknowledgment of the movie/comic connection, BOOM! has included the script for the first issue of Talent along with some character sketches and notes as bonus material at the end of the volume.  While I know that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to comic book script-writing, I’m pretty sure voice descriptions and references to actors/actresses are unusual.  If you’ve never had the chance to look at a comic script before, it’s an interesting experience, but there are more interesting scripts out there.

Book stores are great for this kind of book.  It’s not for everyone, and you should flip through it before you decide whether or not to buy it.  It may appeal to people who don’t read comics more than those who do, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.  Or you can check out previews on the BOOM! website.

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