Banjax #1 // Review
Most superhero comics tend to focus on young, imposing men and women fighting the good fight. When it comes time to hang up the cape or helmet; however, not all endings are happily ever after. Series writer Rylend Grant along with artist Fabio Alves, Edson Ferreira on colors and HdE doing lettering have created a riveting new series that takes a refreshing new look at the old superhero archetype. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns set the bar for stories about superheroes coming out of retirement, and Banjax continues that tradition with a heartbreaking and ultra-violent tale of a hero trying to find his place in a world that has forgotten him. Laird Mason alias Banjax receives a terminal diagnosis from his doctor that forces him to take a long hard look at his life, and choose if his past or his last remaining months alive will define him.
When his days of vigilante violence finally catch up with him, Banjax must decide if his diagnosis will keep him benched until the end or if he has one final fight left in him.
Rylend Grant comes out of the gates swinging with a dynamite first issue. Grant does a fantastic job of giving the reader all the necessary information through an incredibly detailed flashback of Laird Mason’s traumatic childhood and how he adopted the Banjax persona. Though his powers aren’t explored in exquisite detail, it’s known to the reader that Banjax has enhanced strength and is capable of healing himself, however, it’s unclear how much though this does play a key role later on. Grant not only nails the essence of The Dark Knight Returns, but also does a great job embodying street level heroes like The Punisher and Daredevil. All three of those heroes are known for taking beating after beating and still going until the job is done, though the end means certainly mirror The Punisher more than the others. Readers will at some point empathize with Laird and how his life has spiraled out of control, only to feel guilty after knowing it’s his own fault. That feeling in itself is a sign of good character writing, which only builds excitement for future issues.
The artwork of Fabio Alves is everything a dark and gritty comic should embody. Fists and feet connecting with the body and drawn in a way that the reader can feel. One panel in particular features Banjax dropping through a skylight on some thugs. One thug, in particular, has a look of sheer terror on his face with his eyes bulging out and looking right into the reader’s eyes. It’s quite detailed and honestly a bit unsettling, almost like he’s crying to the reader for help. Another panel further into the book shows an up-close image of a baseball bat connecting with the side of a thug’s face. Alves has a fantastic small panel showing the progression of the Banjax costume that pays a great homage to Frank Miller’s Daredevil: Man Without Fear. Edson Ferreira’s color work adds an extra punch to really emotional panels. Flashbacks and really dramatic panels are left black and white except for particular color choices. It’s the little details that help keep a book fresh and make the reader stop for a moment and process everything. HdE’s lettering work sets itself apart nicely from other comics. Banjax’s speech blocks have an excellent little X design at the top left-hand corner at the start of every page. It’s only used once per page, so it’s a nice little touch that doesn’t get overused.
Rylend Grant and the creative team have quite the exciting book on their hands. Given Banjax’s terminal diagnosis, however, it remains to be seen just how far they can stretch this book out, although a limited run may not be the wrong move if the creative team can stay as sharp as they were in this first issue. Don’t miss out on this bloody good time and add this to your pull list today!