I definitely understand where the all-star creative team Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson are coming from in their new series Adventureman #1. The series chronicles the exploits of Claire Connell. She’s a single mom/used bookstore owner, who is tasked to complete the cliffhanger of an old pulp novel called Adventureman. It’s an homage to old World War II pulp-era stories as evidenced by the art from the Dodsons. That swings from old school pinups to two-fisted action with a very 21st century metafictional twist.
But it’s not all retro with a lot of the story having a domestic, realist feel in Claire’s interactions with her Adventureman-obsessed son, Tommy, to her boisterous family at Shabbat dinner. The collision of these worlds is the true hook for Adventureman. The first issue has a few stumbles to go with Fraction’s clever writing and the Dodsons’ beautiful visuals.
I like Claire Connell as a character. However, Adventureman #1 is overstuffed and overwhelming as a narrative. It’s packed with constant character introductions, extraneous caption boxes, all to tell an origin story beat. Fraction and the Dodsons introduce dozens of characters even though two, maybe three matter at this point in the story. Luckily, the characters (Especially the baddies) in the “Adventureman” portion of the story have fun, atompunk character designs from the Dodsons whereas Claire’s family get melodramatic captions and a unifying trait of loudness. This tone is matched by Fraction’s writing, which is pure bombast in both parts of Adventureman #1 and also by a flurry of double page spreads and moving parts from Terry Dodson and an explosive color palette from Rachel Dodson.
But what Adventureman #1 really has going for it, and why I will continue to follow this comic is the development of its protagonist, Claire. First off, it’s super cool to have a single mom take the lead in a heroic adventure that is rooted in both the real world as well as pulp fiction. The page turn reveal from a hero falling to a mom reading is pure joy, and Claire’s love of books and stories are evident in her interactions with Tommy and approach to the work day at her used bookstore that specializes in stories like Adventureman.
However, she is content to interact with these stories from an arm’s length as a reader and as she shares them with her son and the occasional customer. Instead of leaping into action, Claire removes her hearing aids to escape New York (or her family’s noise) and relax for a bit. Fraction and the Dodsons connect this very specific behavior, which demonstrates her introversion and love for escapism, to the comic’s big turning point.
As I have hinted at earlier, Adventureman #1’s other big selling point other than its relatable, likable main character is the Dodsons’ art and colors. Their visuals are much more refined and fluid than their recent work on the X-Men/Fantastic Four miniseries showcasing an advantage of creator-owned comics over corporate, monthly deadline ones. Fraction’s script creates wonderful spaces for storytelling like expressionist cityscapes where Adventureman and his friends battle Baroness Bizarre and her goons or the sanctuary of fandom, story, and later adventure that is Claire and Tommy’s loft apartment. A sense of drama drives everything whether it is over-the-top conversations at the dinner table or punching, kicking, and airships, and the Dodsons do a good job of illustrating both types.
Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson definitely take an everything but the kitchen sink approach to the form and content of Adventureman #1. It’s a fully realized pulp story and family comic held together by metafictional strings. Yes, Grant Morrison fans, there’s a sigil. Plus, there’s a never-ending flurry of widescreen pages with detailed art. A fan of a type of story finding herself in the middle of one is just good old fashioned comfort food for dark times.
Story: Matt Fraction Pencils: Terry Dodson
Inks/Colors: Rachel Dodson Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 6.2 Art: 9.0 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – TFAW