Feeling wrong in the bones.
Ray Willis just can’t have a good day.
Frank J. Barbiere has crafted an entire universe around a character, and even though that universe is still nascent and thinly defined, Ray is not.
We both sympathize and empathize with him, caught in a world where humans are treated like insects by the ‘superheroes’, and a string of bad luck (or Denny) follows him around.
Victor Santos’ pencils are as good as ever, and except for one glaring error, he captures the world quite well.
The story juggles between two timelines, and it isn’t easy to follow if you don’t know beforehand.
The first is November 8th, 2012 as Ray Willis operates on his brother Denny’s friend, unaware that they are mixed up in some really shady business. Even as he finishes, the superhero Ultra barges in and brutally hits Denny.
Two policemen arrive soon and arrest Denny and Ray. Just for helping his brother, Ray is accused of being an abettor and though he avoids prison, he is disgraced and his livelihood is gone. All he has left is a grudge and his terminally ill wife Shannon.
Cut to the present.
The two policemen from before demand a cut from Ray’s profits in the superhero organ game, essentially blackmailing him. Bruiser calls up an old friend Tiger Bomb, whom he manipulates using a dead lover (and the dissected pictures of Hotspot from before) to attack those cops.
There is a visual here I didn’t get. Ray’s speech sound concerned but his face appears delighted. That’s a screw-up if there ever was one.
The two policemen arrive at the place Ray had set for the blackmail drop-off, only to find an enraged Tiger Bomb who promptly and savagely kills the two. Sadly for Ray and Denny, they are discovered and about to be road kill when a bullet ends Bomb’s warpath.
It is revealed that Biochem has been following them the entire time, and their liaison appears. After reprimanding them for the ruckus created, she gives them the next hit – Ultra.
Payback or Death Sentence?
I liked Ray’s inner monologues a lot. You really felt for him as he tried to be a good brother to his degenerate sibling and it lost him everything. Even the person who stood by him, Shannon, is on her last legs now thanks to his predicament.
Ultra statement when Denny tried to get Ray off the hook smacks of the looking-down-on-insects nature we have. Problems are when they gang up and take you on, isn’t it?
The superheroes are clearly showing more sociopath tendencies in this universe, as they both show a disregard for human life and restraint. The visual of the battered face of the policeman captures that perfectly.
The penultimate chapter reveals the reason behind Ray’s grudge against superheroes (and Denny), but payback won’t be easy as he navigates the stream of bad luck he’s wading in.
Barbiere creates a well rounded character in Ray, and that is half the battle won. The rest is a problem of the short page count, which results in not much focus being shown on secondary characters like Shannon or Denny.
So, I give it 7.5 out of 10.
+An illuminating backstory that’s handled well
+Ray has become a fully rounded character that we can get behind
+Santos’ artwork continues to impress….
-Except for one glaring error
-The secondary characters are still thinly realized