November 9, 2014
Dynamite's Justice Inc. mini-series isn't the first "team-up" of pulp characters published by Street and Smith (namely, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Avenger), but it is the first time all three characters have appeared together as part of a new "pulp Justice League." (Which is a much better effort than Dynamite's earlier Masks). Written by Michael Uslan, the story is essentially an origin story of Richard Benson, aka "The Avenger", with all the requisite twists, turns, and allusions that you would expect in a story like this....
If it sounds like I'm damning with faint praise, I'm not - as a rule, I don't like origin stories, especially stories where main characters serve as an "influence" as a new character. (Especially in pulp - a few lines to touch on a character's past is one thing; but I just want to move forward with the action). Uslan does a really good job in placing the characters in context, and there's plenty of great twists and turns (especially the end of issue #3, which has a great conceptual shift as part of the cliffhanger). It's not a bad series....but I do think the notes at the end of each issue are a bit much.
(Spoiler - much of the citations finish with "look it up on Google for more reading").
Although it's a nice gimmick, I'm also not a big fan of the time travel aspect of the story - many pulp stories have a science fiction aspect, but here it reads as totally inappropriate. (Even though it becomes a MacGuffin, it still doesn't ring true). Although the story has plenty of good twists, turns, and action sequences....it makes for a slightly iffy read. It's not bad - all three issues are compelling - but it feels more like a stunt than anything else.
One of the reasons to read this book, however - Giovanni Timpano's art. There's a nice grit and down-to-earth quality about it (reflecting the pulpish tones of the story). He has a really strong sense of layout and storytelling...and it's pleasing enough that it makes the reading experience worthwhile.
I came to Dynamite's Justice Inc with little expectations - mostly, I wanted to see how Uslan was going to use these characters. It's not the world's greatest pulp comic, but it's not at all horrid, either. It's definitely worth checking out in trade.