Review: The Owl #1

Owl01-Cov-RossClearly, pulps are back in a big way. Month in and month out, Dynamite and Dark Horse keep churning out book after book of pulp heroes, new and old. Some are good, some are great, and some are pretty awful. The Owl, written by JT Krul, drawn by Heubert Khan Michael, is Dynamite’s most recent, and thankfully it starts off on solid ground.

Firstly, a short plot summary. (And from here on, minor SPOILERS.) The Owl #1 follows Nick Terry, a cop in Yorktown moonlighting as a masked vigilante known, shockingly, as the Owl. He and his girl Belle, a reporter by day and Owl Girl by night, dressed up and took down the bad guys. Suddenly, Terry found himself trapped (along with all of the other heroes) in a mystical urn and transported fifty into the future, finding himself in our modern day. He comes out to find the world changed; the world he knew is gone, and Belle with it. This first issue follows Terry as he flies back into action as the Owl, getting used to new kinds of crime and new kinds of criminals. This is all presented clearly and gradually over the course of the comic, which means that we don’t have to deal with an extended flashback sequence so early, giving the book an easy flow. The only issue I take with the actual plot of this issue is that it’s rather jumpy. Transitions are a little rough, and Terry just kind of appears places. But that’s a minor quibble, and most likely as the story develops the transitions will become a little smoother.

So that’s the basic plot, and it works fine. The only problem is that Nick Terry is a bit of a cliché character. He protects the weak because he’s just such a nice person. He offers to find a missing man just because an unhappy middle age woman looks at him. He’s not too fazed at losing fifty years of his life because he can still dress up and protect the innocent: “Comes with the job,” he says. Part of the fun of pulp is to have protagonists that have a little bit of an edge, a little bit of bite. Some of the most classic pulp characters even used guns, but in the violent world of The Owl, Terry seems a little soft. The Owl is a fierce hand to hand combatant, but Terry himself is a big Boy Scout. Fortunately, JT Krul has a good handle on Terry’s voice, and the mystery laid out in the last scene leads me to believe that Terry’s going to be dealing with some big, emotional stuff; hopefully he will become a more relatable character because of it.

Michael’s art follows the story step for step. It’s moody and occasionally dark, giving flavor to Krul’s script. This book contains a lot of action, and in those instances the art is clear and acrobatic. The characters are given grace and strength and life, and I was never unsure of what was happening or where the characters were. Furthermore, there are several sections of the book drawn in a different style, either similar to classic comic strips or in sepia tone set in the around the middle of the 20th Century. This helps to differentiate the time periods as well as mark the contrast between what Nick Terry is used to, and what he has to deal with in the present day. It’s a gimmick that works, and it also makes the issue stand out in a good way.

While the action sequences are impressive, the art falters a bit when we move indoors. There’s a middle scene set in a police station that devolves into a lot of talking heads and mid shots of the waist up, taking some of the fluidity away from the characters. Furthermore, the close ups and mid shots are well detailed, but some of the panels containing long shots have less detail than I would like. I know that every piece of art loses detail at distance, but there are some panels that seem like they could use a touching up.

The Owl #1 is an effective, exciting book that sets up an engaging central mystery, and only suffers slightly from cliché character and story. If the rest of the mini is at least as entertaining as this debut issue has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find The Owl has turned into an ongoing series.

Story: JT Krul Art: Heubert Khan Michael

Story: 7 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.