by Jeffrey Morris, Fredrick Haugen, Christopher Jones, and Zac Atkinson
From the very start of this new series, Jeffrey Morris and Fredrick Haugen present readers with an intriguing setup. In a page of text, the story goes that in this book there are multiple universes, one that reached an advanced stage much earlier, and the ensuing intent to conquer as many others as possible. The Ascendancy, this advanced militant group, have arrived at this Earth to continue the conquest, but a plot of dissenting members exists in the background. Morris and Haugen have a solid premise right there to open Parallel Man with a strong first step.
How readers are brought into the world, and given a sense of the time of this story is by the capture and contact of the Ascendancy with Air Force One and President Barack Obama. Ascendancy leader, Warren Cartwright, informs President Obama that he can stand down, everyone present is American, and he is now the new leader. It’s cold and short. The preceding chase sequence, however, with the inclusion of teleportation makes the opening a bit hard to follow. Soon after, the story cuts to its protagonist, a member of the Ascendancy who has gone off book to look for an artifact. It is not long before the book’s tension and action pick up as the other members of his militant group track him down and a very long chase sequence ensues.
The major plot threads of this first issue of Parallel Man, at least on paper, have a number of strengths. The overarching story that Morris and Haugen have initiated here has great concepts. Despite having some fantastic ingredients, though, the opening chapter of Parallel Man feels flat. The chase sequence has its peaks and valleys, covering a majority of the issue, while making time to inform readers of the overall picture, the aim of The Ascendancy and some background on the protagonist and his family. Each element is interesting, but the pacing and storytelling are presented in such a way that never meets the potential of this story structure. Additionally, as much of the action includes characters jumping from place to place, at times to different locations within one Earth, and others to other Earths, the size of the chase is almost too much to follow. With characters that can jump to an Earth populated by dinosaurs, and then to one covered in fungus, there should be greater suspense. But when Nick fails to shake his pursuers despite this impressive technology, it begs the question of why it is part of the story at all.
Morris and Haugen certainly have a number of fantastic ideas to play with and the major premise of this new series feels like a classic science fiction story, layered with a political plotline. The reading experience of Parallel Man #1 just does not quite match that potential. In similar fashion, the book’s art is a bit underwhelming. Christopher Jones’ pencil work never becomes a problem in this issue, though the detailing of these alternate worlds, creatures, and technology stays pretty safe. At the same time, the very bright, highly contrasted and saturated colors almost feel unnatural.
There is a lot of promise for this new series. In a list of story elements, Parallel Man sounds like a must read. In execution, the first issue falls short of what it sets out to be. Hopefully as the series progresses, the creative team can smooth out some of these initial bumps.