Banjax #1 is a wholly original and delightfully twisted deconstruction of the superhero genre.
Laird Mason, a disgraced former superhero, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, brought on by years of using his powers. Defending what he has deemed an ungrateful and ultimately unworthy city is literally killing him. With just months to live and a legacy hanging in the balance, Mason launches a violent and misguided Death Wish-like campaign to purge the city of supervillains before he dies.
There’s a lot to unpack in this issue. Rylend Grant spends the better part of the comic establishing his lead character through flashbacks. Laird Mason provides the narration that doubles as an intricate history over the superhero’s active years. It also provides a window into his current state of mind.
Grant doesn’t try to make you believe that Mason is an altruistic hero. He’s as fallible as all of us. The cracks to his psyche are just beneath the surface even at an early age as he suffers through an abusive childhood. The catalyst to his becoming a hero is the sexual assault of a woman who Mason doesn’t know. It’s a classic example of her abuse being used to kickstart his heroic tendencies. A dip into bad tropes that are dragged out too often. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to the attack, he finally decided to stop being an observer.
Though it is possible, given a remark on one of the following pages and some art that doesn’t convey explicit force, that it isn’t a sexual assault but rather a willing participant desperate for a hit. I’ll leave that to you to decide if you read the comic. Regardless of the nature of the scene, there’s more than enough of a grey area regarding the participant’s consent to make you feel a touch uncomfortable with the way that it’s visually portrayed. Mason’s reaction leaves no doubt as to how he views the scene. That begs the question of whether he’s right or if he jumped to conclusions.
Beyond that scene, the comic is a very engaging read – we see Mason’s life through glimpses that give you such an understanding of the character that you honestly feel as though you’ve been reading the series for 20-30 issues already – by the end of the comic you’re left feeling somewhat astonished by the amount of content packed into the twenty odd pages, It never once feels crammed, or forced, instead having a very natural flow to the story as you experience a whirlwind tale encapsulating Mason’s life.
Visually the comic is impressive; the dark color scheme mirrors Mason’s state of mind as we see him hit the highs and lows of life. Despite being a less than savory character Mason never tries to justify his actions. This isn’t exactly a man who is a hero in all aspects of his life. His acceptance of the kind of man he has been gives him an oddly understandable air. Not that he’s a likable person, but you’re able to understand his reactions to certain things in his life. In a single issue, we watch the beginnings and the fall of a hero, only to really start his story as it comes to a close.
Although there is a scene in the comic that may make some less than inclined to read this book, and I totally understand that, Banjax #1 is a comic packed with backstory that sets up a story with a lot of promise going forward. This is a hero with a finite shelf life, and so we’re going to get to find out just how far a hero is willing to go to ensure the safety of his city in his last few months.
It’s a comic that’s worth reading if you’re interested in a unique take on a hero’s end of days.
Writer: Rylend Grant Art: Fabio Alves
Colors: Edson Ferreira Letters: HdE
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.6 Recommendation: Buy
Action Lab: Danger Zone provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review