Review by C.J. Bunce
If you like Velma from Scooby Doo and you wanted to see her all grown up in a further adventure, The Answer! may be for you. Revival and Battlepug writer/artist Mike Norton created the story of a new superhero with an exclamation point on his mask, and he supplied the interior art and covers, while well-known writer Dennis Hopeless scripted the four-issue Dark Horse Comics series, with Issue #1 released this month.
The Answer!–the superhero–is enigmatic in his debut issue–he’s a new creation like Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle, also a recent addition to the superhero pantheon–both intriguing shadowy characters who have unknown but slowly revealed back stories and are compelled to fight crime. Like The Black Beetle, The Answer! is pretty much a complete creator-owned work cover to cover. Eisner Award winning artist Norton has a well-recognized style, with dynamic characters and interesting panel views.
But in Issue #1 superhero The Answer! takes backseat to a driven, puzzle whiz librarian named Devin MacKenzie. The story has parallels to the Michael Douglas movie The Game, where Sean Penn gives his brother a present with complex and dangerous consequences. Here Devin’s mother mails her a gift for her 30th birthday, a Hellraiser meets Dungeon & Dragons dice-inspired puzzle ball–a Rubik’s cube on steroids. Devin loves puzzles, and Norton makes this point clear in no uncertain terms by giving her office a black and white crossword-checked linoleum floor.
Devin may be able to solve the puzzle ball, but the solution reveals a clue that takes her to an online game. From there her Spock-like logic allows her to solve several levels of puzzles–tests perhaps–from an unknown entity in a Mercury Rising kind of revelation. Norton draws her to look like Velma from Scooby Doo, and Hopeless has hinted on his website that her story may be of the Mystery Machine variety.
None too soon our new superhero arrives to take Devin away in a bit of a Terminator “come with me if you want to live” maneuver. The parallels to other genre stories don’t end there, with throwback story elements from classic sci-fi and the superhero realm on nearly every page.
Where is this all going? Issue #1 does as it should–it gives us just enough to entice us to come back for more next month. Norton knows what comic book fans want and he looks like he is going to deliver again.