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Review: The Silencer #1

The Silencer is the story of Honor Guest (not her real name), a woman who appears to be an ordinary suburban housewife with a devoted husband and a young son. She’s also a trained assassin with the ability to create a cone of silence that disrupts sound in her immediate vicinity, a very useful ability in her line of work. After years of being free of the killing trade, someone is now after her with a vengeance.

I liked this book quite a bit. With Damage (the first book in DC’ New Age of Heroes line-up) we got a DC version of the Hulk. The Silencer is set up to be a lot more of a riff on the seminal manga Lone Wolf and Cub than anything in mainstream superhero comics. 

Your opinion of The Silencer is largely going to be based on what you think of John Romita Jr. His style tends to be pretty polarizing among fans, something that surprises me since I consider him one of the modern masters of the form. This story has Romita’s fingerprints all over it. He’s credited as a “storyteller” rather than simply an “artist” and his name comes first so I can only assume that he contributed more to the mix than just drawing what he was told. The plot and characters seem to be the sort that have always appealed to his sensibilities: tough, no nonsense types with more down to Earth power sets and a lot of very big, sometimes outlandish, guns. The action also moves like it was plotted by an artist with a pencil rather than a writer at a computer. There is a cinematic quality to the layouts, for example, that it’s almost impossible to plan out with mere words.

Romita is aided by Dan Abnett, a writer who has consistently proven himself to be one of the best working for DC or any other company. Of all of his comics that I’ve read, this is the one that hews the closest to the work that first brought him to my attention: his novels set in the grimdark universe of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop games, particularly the Eisenhorn trilogy. Abnett has always excelled at finding the humanity behind hard edged characters who must justify some pretty extreme means with a greater good in mind. He’s great at transforming people who might otherwise come off as very hollow and uncompromising suits of cool looking armor into compelling individuals and he does so here. I knew what Honor was about after two pages of reading and that’s down to Abnett’s dialog and captions as much as Romita’s art. I thought Romita and Scott Snyder were a great team on All-Star Batman but at this rate I think Romita and Abnett might just be a better fit for each other.

Colorist Dean White and Letterer Tom Napolitano both do their jobs well but special mention has to be given to inker Sandra Hope. I don’t think Romita’s work has looked this good since he left Amazing Spider-Man in the early 2000’s. As much as I enjoyed Klaus Janson’s rougher finishes, Hope brings a quality and confidence to the pencils that really stood out for me.

If I have one criticism it’s this: The Silencer is heavily tied into the end of Grant Morrison’s Batman run (I can’t really reveal how without spoilers). While it’s not hard for longtime DC readers to follow (even those like me who haven’t read many of issues in question), I don’t think that brand new readers are well served by the level of name dropping, especially in a first issue. It’s particularly annoying given that this a brand new character. Depending on how the story develops and how the creators handle the exposition in issues to come it might not be a long term problem but as things stand now I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone without at least passing familiarity with recent Bat-history. For everyone else it gets a hearty thumbs up.

Story: John Romita Jr and Dan Abnett  Art: John Romita Jr
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.