By Sean Ryan, Jamal Campbell, and Javier Saltares

One thing you can count on with mainstream superhero comics are big events and regular reboots. It’s a gimmick that sells a ton of comics, but it’s a gimmick all the same. As publishers, the Big Two have a lot of tricks up their sleeves purely to get readers to buy more comics, and they’ve been successful more times than not. Fortunately, as is the case with Marvel’s new series Prowler, the other guarantee is they utilize exceptional talent. Sure, you may get tired of yet another version of a beloved character, but at least the writers and artists are almost always the best available. Where a reboot may lack originality on some level, at least mainstream comics remain entertaining and produced with a premium quality. That said, the individual titles still need to contain stories worth reading.

Prowler #1, a tie-in to Marvel’s latest event, “Clone Conspiracy”, feels a little thin and light on substance. The story provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the villains and what they’re up to, which is a cool idea, although it doesn’t amount to much. After several re-tellings, Prowler the character deserves better than a tie-in. It’s bad enough the character has spent decades trying to secure a spot on the starting line, so why give him yet another supporting role? Prowler as a series should be given legs to stand on its own instead of what could be considered filler in the bigger picture. Unfortunately, despite a well-paced telling paired with classic and witty dialogue, Prowler leaves something to be desired.

Writer Sean Ryan clearly has the technical ability to craft a good superhero comic, but one wishes he were in a position to push the boundaries and really go for it. Prowler is a highly structured book with clear scene breaks that make it almost too clean, with exception to Prowler’s inner dialogue. Bookending this issue is a surprisingly nice monologue, which gives us insight into the character’s inner workings, while at the same time showing what could have been. It’s a nice touch and something any comic book fan can appreciate, especially with a conflicted anti-hero like this one, so here’s hoping the story continues in that same reflective direction.

The artwork does a bit more than carry its own weight. Jamal Campbell creates soft, yet impactful images, which at times give the book a sense of finesse. Realistic detail, and a sense of movement, provide compelling imagery in action scenes and conversational scenes alike. It’s obvious Campbell could draw anything in the Marvel Universe, and so maybe it’s no wonder he’s been such a successful cover artist. But he’s got the interiors down too, and proves it every step of the way in Prowler. Though the artwork may be noteworthy it might not be enough to keep this series afloat.

In comics, the term “mainstream” has negative connotations, and it’s due in part to an inability to evolve characters and commit them to a path that is interesting enough to forgo constant resetting. Launching a new series, which works double-time to support an overarching storyline doesn’t do Prowler justice. Here’s hoping the series finds a stride of its own, but if it doesn’t, then you may have to consider the value of collecting multiple titles to know the full story in just one of them.

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About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.