Writer: Andy Ewington
Published: Generally available. Also available on Kindle, ComiXology and Graphic.ly
Having decided to forego the test that would determine whether his soon-to-be-born child is carrying the all-important “Super-S” gene, journalist James Stanley sets out on a quest to interview 45 super-powered individuals in the hope that their experiences may better prepare him for the birth of a child that is potentially gifted with extraordinary abilities. On his journey, he encounters characters from all walks of life. But what starts as a voyage of personal discovery becomes something far more ominous when he crosses paths with an organisation known as XoDOS.
It was with quite fortunate timing that I came across Com-X’s 45. Recently I have been seeking out alternative takes on superheroes and have enjoyed such books as Devil’s Cape by Rob Rogers, Black and White by Caitlin Kittredge and Jackie Kessler and Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines. I love superheroes but the only problem with Marvel and DC is that they’ve been going for so long and their continuity is so established that nothing is ever going to happen to their characters. Both Marvel and DC have spin-off novels but what’s the point in reading them when nothing will happen to the protagonists and any events that unfold won’t even be part of canon?
If you’re expecting 45 to be just another comic then you need to re-adjust your thinking, because it’s more like a novel than a comic and sits nicely alongside the titles mentioned above. Perhaps its closest neighbour is Max Brook’s World War Z but with superheroes, a fact mentioned in the notes of the book. It’s a series of one-page interviews with 45 super-powered characters with an accompanying full-page illustration.
For a graphic novel that’s only 132 pages in length, it throws a heap of ideas and characters at each page and it’s obvious there’s a lot of creativity at work here. However its format is also something that lets it down. At times the interviews feel all too brief and the subjects feel like they are only sketched out and a lot of the Q&As feel clichéd. It’s reads like a Metro 60-second interview but there’s only so much you can convey in a single page of text. On the plus side, dotted throughout the narrative are hints of an overall plot arc, a universe being tantalisingly fleshed out and the machinations of the XoDOS organisation who take a great interest in the super-powered. Are they the good guys or the bad guys? It depends on which interviews you read…
If you’ve had enough of the spandexed big boys fighting each other and you want a refreshing take on the superhero genre then 45 is well worth a read. It’s an interesting concept and the illustrations for each interview are drawn by some of the cream of the industry’s talent and in that one page, they manage to convey not only the spirit of the text but the origin of each character. Some of the interviews will have your heart in your mouth and there is a interesting little twist in the final pages. This is the first time I’ve picked up some of Com-X’s work, after hearing many good things about them, and there’s a lot of great ideas at work here. 45 is worth your time.