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Just as the cover of issue #1 displays, Callum Finney is a puppet master. I gave a glowing review to Anti-Hero #1, the very epitome of everything that Monkeybrain is doing right this year. Since then, two more issues have hit the shelves, and despite my high expectations, I’m still mostly pleased with the story’s trajectory.
In issue #1, we learn a lot about the superhero, Paragon, as Callum follows him around and learns about his family. Although it was Callum who was doing the snooping, it was Paragon’s character that we got to know in depth. Going forward, it was clear that both characters would play a significant role.
By issue #3, it’s Callum who seems to have taken the role of protagonist. And yes, he’s quite the puppet master. As it turns out, his new arrangement with Paragon has been kept a secret, and he has actually been using the manipulated hero to rob his employer, Malloy. Callum was under the thumb of Malloy and powerless against Paragon when the story began; after some swift table turning, he might now be one of the most powerful men in the city.
As interesting a story as it surely is, Anti-Hero #3 is not without its flaws. The issues are very short in length—roughly ten pages. While that may be the boundary that the writers are required to work within, the way Faerber and his team choose to use those ten pages is where I take fault. Only two of the ten are spent developing character and plot, while the remaining eight are occupied by a flashy spectacle of a robbery. Don’t get me wrong; the action is good. But then again, the characters are good too—much better than exploding buses, in my opinion.
Since Callum pulled off the blackmail on Paragon, we have mostly seen the victimized hero in costume, fighting crime or committing it. By his second major heist, would he really not have taken steps to learn more about Callum, or at the very least, to try to ensure the safety of his family? So far, he’s been nothing more than a big dog on a short leash, and he seems to have accepted that as a reality. With no end in sight for Callum’s biddings, would Paragon really just accept defeat? A little bit of resistance on his part wouldn’t hurt.
Callum, on the other hand, went from being an expendable pawn to an all-powerful queen—if I’m to maintain the chess analogy—and his change in demeanor, from pathetic to prideful, is proof of that. But how long can these robberies continue before Malloy decides his men are incompetent or can’t be trusted? After all, it was Paragon’s foiling of the robbery in issue #1 that got Callum in hot water to begin with. What difference does it make to Malloy if his money is taken by a hero or by a villain?
It isn’t that I believe these questions won’t be reconciled one way or another. It’s that, with these questions lingering, eight straight pages of Paragon—or his villainous alter ego, Bludgeon—bouncing off rooftops and peeling the roofs off cars can be difficult to stomach. In this particular story, what’s going on behind the scenes is far more interesting than the exploits of a super… person. It’s the human side that I want more of.
But of course, I’m still eager to see where the story is headed. This particular issue ended on quite the cliffhanger, which I’d rather not spoil. It’s something that was bound to happen sometime and I’m excited to see how it plays out. And again, the illustration of the action is great. Nate Stockman does a fantastic job at putting this chaos on the page. Also, the character development that does take place is quite good. While there isn’t much dialogue, Faerber makes what little there is count. Anti-Hero is still great, and I’m still very eager to see what will happen next.