[23 August 2007]
BOOM! Studios has made quite an auspicious start since its debut in 2005. It was named best new publisher in its initial year by Wizard Magazine. They have been able to land credible talent from the beginning, garnering respect from the industry. The biggest splash of all made by BOOM!, announced at the recent Comic-Con, is the appointment of Mark Waid as Editor-in-Chief. Waid has spent a lot time writing for both Marvel and DC, though he has been directing more of his efforts towards his own projects these days. Waid will continue to write for DC but his creator-owned properties will launch with BOOM!, so it’s easy to see the appeal of the EIC position. Another veteran writer at DC comic that has become a large presence at BOOM! is Keith Giffen, who has a number of series currently running at BOOM! Dominion is one of these, a story about an alien microbe coming to earth, infecting a number of people, and granting them destructive superhuman powers.
Though the cover states “Keith Giffen and Ross Richie’s Dominion” the first issue is written by neither. Rather, Giffen and Richie, the co-founder of BOOM! Studios, are given “concept” credit. It’s difficult to determine how far that concept extends, and whether it includes plotting, but the issue is written by Michael Alan Nelson, a comic and prose fiction writer, who has penned a number of other series with BOOM! Nelson does not waste much time throwing readers directly into the chaos that will ensue. There is a brief introduction on the first page describing the history of germ/bio warfare, including how it predates much the modern era. Then we are quickly introduced to Officer Urbanski in Chicago getting coffee on his day off. It is a short scene, but clearly functions to introduce us to the person who will play the role of hero. From there, we run through a number of vignettes with characters as they go about their daily business before being extraordinarily transformed into beings with superpowers.
Dominion proceeds with an apocalyptic tone as the sudden explosion (both figurative and literal) of destructive super-humans cripples and terrorizes Chicago. Urbanski plays the Mel Gibson/Bruce Willis “regular guy/police action hero role”, jumping into the fire on his day off, giving a “man up” speech to his police chief, and loading up on firearms to confront the super menace. This is all played fairly straightforward by Nelson and artist Tim Hamilton. Nelson utilizes everyday dialogue to keep the story grounded, while Hamilton injects some dynamic splash pages to allow for the sense of apocalyptic craziness.
Classifying Dominion is where things become tricky. Though we are told the microbe is alien, the tone of Dominion is clearly not Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Though these individuals are granted super-powers, they are not glamorized in a way that makes the story seem like a superhero story (in fact, most of the infected and powered people are unappealing). Still, it’s even too expansive to be horror, one of BOOM!‘s most successful genres. As mentioned previous, this does tend to feel like a big action movie with a Sci-Fi twist, something like Armageddon meets The Hidden.
It is perhaps the familiarity of the plot so far that makes this title seem a bit ordinary. While the alien microbe causing super powers angle is new, the general trajectory of the plot treads soundly in the End-of-the-World action movie mode. Nelson writes smart dialogue, but that does not totally compensate for a somewhat unoriginal plot. Giffen and Richie’s idea might have been a great one, and perhaps this limited series will develop into entirely unexpected ways over its last four issues. I suppose this tale needs a regular hero. However, if it’s my day off and an alien hazard comes to town, consider me immediately heading out of town.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/dominion-1-of-5/