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Local Man Issue #1 (review)

Written by Tony Fleecs and Illustrated by Tim Seely

Image Comics, February 2024

An enthralling crime noir superhero drama that is the culmination of the best parts of the 90s era of comics, complimented by a modern-age approach to storytelling, is not only stunning to look at but constantly sets the mood and builds anticipation through each panel and turn of the page.

Issue 1 takes us to our dejected protagonist, “Jack Crossman.” A despondent first page sees a long-shot portrait of Jack, engulfed in the desolate, subdued colour palette. Artist and writer Tony Fleecs and Tim Seely create a beautiful opening shot that firmly sets the tone of the comic book and immediately drenches us into the feet of our protagonist.

Down on his luck and without purpose, Jack, a retired superhero, chooses to return home to find his bearings. Family tensions are at an all-time high between a bitter and emotionally despondent father and a mother doing her best to keep things together. Tony slowly peels the layers behind us and peaks us into our characters’ histories. The prodigal son returns to harsh disappointment, distant memories of a time (foreshadowing) that once was, and the unforgiving reality wherein we find ourselves.

The creative team continues developing the gloomy atmosphere through further use of murky textures and heavily exaggerated cross hatching, a literal and figurative representation of the tense, dark atmosphere the characters found themselves in and actively lived through.

An incredible attention to detail from the creative team is the lack of eye contact Jack engages in, juxtaposed to the stabbing glare from his father, which is in contrast to the mother’s tender gaze.

A few drinks and a night of darts later, to alleviate the tension, the story picks up momentum by bringing us to the action climax of the issue, wherein we encounter a long-time rival and arch nemesis to our protagonist. But instead of a classic 90s fight scene, we are taken back by an altercation that carries a warm yet eery sentiment, wherein we get some foreshadowing of a larger plot at play that falls to deaf ears.

The panels throughout this scene make use of an abrupt, warm red that could have some tonal significance, foreshadowing danger of characters draped in this hue.

The scene de-escalates by introducing a childhood friend, business owner, and wife to the city’s sheriff.

Artistically, the scene provides a glaring contrast to the pre-established tone, lending itself to experimenting with brighter, floral colours, with an emphasis on these calming purple hues.

This is masterfully countered by the ominous red hum at the introduction of “THIRD GEN.”

The creative team provides a master class in visual and narrative world building, as we are introduced to a bleak interpretation around the ideas of superheroes within the Local Man universe, including law – everything from contracts, legislation, and trademarks.

Jack finds out that he has inadvertently been in breach of contract through his action against Hodog. We are then given more hints into our protagonist’s past, particularly through the interaction he has with Erika, as they slowly disappear into the beaming white lights of their aircraft carrier. 

The final scene of the comics makes use of a stunning film technique, the ‘match cut’, and manages to masterfully translate it over to comic book format. We receive a shot of Jack throwing a dart at a hidden surveillance drone, which is then interpolated into the suspicious murder of Hodog. The intense, murky, and rigid panel work conveys a deeply troubling narrative that is about to befall our protagonist and does a masterful job building suspense for what is to come.

All this masterfully crescendos as we get a deeply haunting final page depicting the violent assassination of Hodog, in a twisted yet beautiful homage to issue 5 of Todd MacFarlane’s superhero / horror title Spawn, in the murder of Billy Kincaid. The premiere issue concludes with a heart-sinking cliffhanger.

Final Thoughts: 9.8/10

What an issue, what a comic, what a creative team… Local Man feels like a love letter to the history and legacy of comic books, with a myriad of homages and references to the giants it now finds itself leaning upon. The creative team knocks it out of the park with a masterpiece debut issue. Artistic depth pervades this comic book. I am beyond excited to read and cover more of this series.