Monday, August 29, 2011

Tommy's Take on Absolution

This was originally written during my short stint at Imagine Daily...I don't believe it ever saw the light of day there, but it was written over a year ago. Enjoy.

     Maybe it's just me, but it sure seems like Christos Gage is a bit underrated.  I've been enjoying his works for a few years now, especially his Thunderbolts one shots and his amazing Captain America/Iron Man one shot during Marvel's Civil War event a few years ago, in which Gage wrote arguably the only comic that laid out both Cap's and Iron Man's arguments convincingly.  So when I saw that Christos Gage created a new series through Avatar, I pounced on it.
Absolution is a whole lot like “The Green Lantern meets Dexter”.  More accurately: “The Green Lantern IS Dexter”.  The world of Absolution is one with superheroes and villains, it's just that the heroes are all law enforcement officers and not just vigilantes.  Their identities known by the authorities they serve, they are the “Top Cops”.  Absolution stars John Dusk, a powerful super with energy manipulation powers who has experienced eight years of atrocities followed by the perpetrators getting early releases, walking on technicalities and so on...until one day Dusk just snaps.  He doesn't go on a rampage, Punisher style or all starts simply enough by letting a very bad man bleed to death.  From that point on, John Dusk is on a slippery slope.  For the first time in his career, he knows that the guy he just took down won't ever hurt another person again.
Vigilantes are nothing new in comic books.  There's a whole era devoted to vigilantes, the “Iron Age” where most of the heroes carried big guns and ended their problems permanently.  The story has been done and been parodied and rehashed.  With Absolution, Gage isn't just retelling the Punisher here.  John Dusk is a human being with amazing powers constantly put into horrible situations.  He's not Superman or Spider-Man: He HAS a breaking point.  As Dusk continues his covert actions, the tension grows as his girlfriend, an unpowered police detective, begins seeking this serial killer stalking the scum on the streets.
Through it all, we're inside Dusk's head as he rationalizes everything he does, deals with the suspicions surrounding his actions and the twists and turns in the development of the story.  We're right there as Dusk sees the lines he's crossing, as he tries to stop, and as he realizes he can't.  Gage never glorifies the violence, even though there is a lot of it (a very graphic title, very much for mature readers), and towards the third act of the story, Dusk's crusade winds up having very tragic consequences.  The final two issues see Dusk seeking his absolution for his actions, and end in such a way as to definitely set up a sequel, which Gage has confirmed is coming next year.
Absolution is an impressive out in the vigilante genre that'll likely appeal to anyone who's ever watched the news and been disgusted to see criminals walking free or turned out too early, or readers who like anti-heroes who still have a sense of humanity to them.  Filled with a compelling cast of characters, Absolution never forgets the humanity at the core of it's story.  The biggest downside is that occasionally, just occasionally, the art (by Robert Viacava) feels a little stiff, but it's not enough to detract from the story.  Not for the faint of heart or easily offended, it is a very graphic series, with violence, nudity and swearing that toes the line but never quite crosses into the completely gratuitous realm.  Absolution is now available in Trade Paperback and Hardcover.  Very highly recommended.  One of my favorite reads so far this year.