Review: The Middleman #1

After seeing a few preview pages online, I decided to pick-up The Middleman from Viper Comics. In short, The Middleman is fun, engaging and does what a good comic should do: Make the reader want to read the next issue.

Viper Comics is quickly becoming a major player in the industry. With hits like Dead@17 and Daisy Kutter, Jessie Garza and Viper Comics are part of the new renaissance of comic book companies joining the ranks of Speakeasy, FC9, IDW, Alias Entertainment, Avatar, Arcana and a little self-publishing juggernaut, Ronin Studios.

Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach with art by Les McClaine, The Middleman hooked me in with its readable storytelling style and line-work. Having an interest in how black and white comics “look” on the page since I’m currently creating one of my own, I was curious in how the creative team laid out each panel and page. If you are interested in how to pace a comic – read The Middleman.

Having gotten interested in the TV show Lost late in the game, I’ve been watching the summer re-runs and other “acquired” copies of the episodes. It didn’t occur to me until much later that Grillo-Marxuach was one of the writers and a supervising producer for the show. He’s a talented writer and every page showcases his talents.

Greatly enhancing the pace is McClaine’s art style. It’s clean and sharp and has a fluidity not found in most contemporary comics. His pencils have a cartoony style, which fits the book perfectly. I can only imagine what kind of horrors the Middleman will have to face down in the future, but I know McClaine will illustrate them with panache.

My first thought as I was reading The Middleman was how the entire issue reads like the first half of a TV show pilot. It presents a quick sense of who the main characters are and their fantastic situation. It felt like something that could easily be translated into a movie, television show or video game. I can see the tremendous potential in placing these characters in new and exciting adventures.

By having the point of view character be both identifiable to the reader (cute girl in a dead-end job cracking wise and can outshoot you in video games) and clearly a “fish out of water,” Grillo-Marxuach has presented the perfect entry character into the world of the Middleman. The story takes bits and pieces from other more established properties, most notably Men in Black, Ghostbusters and every James Bond movie, but I never for once thought the creators were acknowledging the earlier works with anything but a knowing nod and a wink.

This is probably going to be added to my pull list. This is an impressive debut and one you probably shouldn’t miss either.