by Peter Milligan, Piotr Kowalski & Kelly Fitzpatrick
Recently, a number of well known creators have been releasing original works through Dynamite Entertainment. Branded at the top of this new issue with the words “Creators Unleashed,” the publisher has been responsible for some interesting new series. Continuing that pattern is Peter Milligan’s new series Terminal Hero. With merely weeks to live, twenty-four year old Rory Fletcher has the opportunity to try an experimental course of treatment to combat his inoperable tumor. Neither the title of the series, nor the aforementioned premise act as a reliable teaser, and the first issue heads in a direction that is a bit unexpected.
The first page of this brand new series establishes a distinct tone as a man runs across a field, seemingly ablaze, as he is pursued by individuals in hazmat suits. The story jumps a few years on the following page as readers witness Rory’s appointment where he is made aware of just how terrible his condition has become. A medical student himself, the scene plays out slightly differently than is typically written. Rory himself concludes his condition and lifespan as well as his options and just how futile they are. It is not a large difference but does carry a different weight. There is a bluntness to the realization and this, along with the following scene between Rory and Raza, do well to develop the characters succinctly.
An experimental treatment. An inoperable, incurable sickness. Those sound like ingredients that, when mixed with the series’ title, lend to the origin of an unlikely superhero. While that may be where the series ends up, it is certainly not where it finds itself in this issue. The idea comes from Rory’s friend, Raza, who has someone hack into secret medical files to learn about a medical trial that was abruptly stopped and covered up as top secret. Professor Matthew Quigley had run trials on an experimental treatment that wound up with devastating results and Quigley dead. Milligan does a great job at keeping this story feeling unique throughout and while many of these pieces of this story can be compared to familiar stories in the past, the combination of those aspects in the way they come together here lends to a fresh tale. The way in which the side effects of this treatment manifest, the horrors that follow, and the overall pacing of this first issue are very strong.
A great story can be impeded by its paired art. Fortunately, Kowalski is more than capable at bringing this story to life on the page. The imagery is mostly straightforward, as are the panel layouts and character designs. Kowalski makes the smart choice to facilitate the script rather than distract from it with a more experimental approach. His style, though, still carries its own unique look that gives the book personality without overtaking its story. Even in some of the more horrific moments in the first issue, Kowalski keeps the imagery simple, avoiding the temptation to go for something more grotesque. Likewise, the colorist on this first issue, Kelly Fitzpatrick, does a solid job. Her work, in conjunction with Kowalski’s pencils, combine well and help to establish the mood for the series.
All in all, this first issue of Terminal Hero is a solid one. The title certainly gives indication of where the story is likely to head, but Milligan does well to take readers on a journey before that point. The story of Rory Fletcher looks to be a rough one, and it will certainly be interesting to see it unfold.