By J. Michael Straczynski, Sid Kotian & Bill Farmer
Here we go again, another book about a supernatural investigator who is on friendly terms with various ghouls. There are already a lot of series that use this time-worn angle, and while many do it well, there has to be a big hook that sets the book apart from the competitors. With the first installment, Apocalypse Al didn’t accomplish this.
Issue #1 was a fairly run of the mill book that didn’t really do anything different or interesting for the genre. Allison Carter is an investigator who specializes in the vague area of “the end of the world.” There are some potentially interesting features about her background that could’ve been covered in more detail to provide what seemed like an intriguing aspect. However, the story crafted by J. Michael Straczynski threw the reader into a string of random encounters which lacked a suitable explanation or context, particularly in the beginning. Overall, this caused some confusion and disrupted the flow of the story. The narration and dialogue felt dry and lacking personality, even the abundance of humor came off as forced most of the time. Some of the comedy was good but it wasn’t enough to make the book very interesting. There was also too much that felt particularly reminiscent of competitor titles, like Al’s acquaintance with Mike the zombie.
The illustrations by Sid Kotian were more than adequate, and in some instances, really helped to make the fairly bland writing a bit more exciting. The interesting layouts and paneling were one of the better aspects of this book while many panels had a great sense of detail and depth. Others, however, felt relatively weak in comparison, although this wasn’t a glaring issue overall. Bill Farmer’s color work really helps add some life to the somewhat standard visuals, and also enhances the realism and detail.
There are definitely people who love any story in the vein of Apocalypse Al, but this particular installment felt lacking in depth and substance. The artwork was pretty good, but not enough to make the book more exciting. This first issue wasn’t awful in every respect, but there was definitely a strong sense of mediocrity and even boredom.