Unthinkable #1Unthinkable #1
Writer: Mark Sable
Artist: Julian Totino Tedesco
Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Considering all the unintended hype this series has gotten -- with writer Mark Sable being held up by TSA as they read the script for this very issue -- this book has set up a high bar for itself. Well, I can say that the first issue of Unthinkable is a smart twist on the writer-protagonist cliché that has a charm so potent, it apparently can't travel airborne.
The series opens, admittedly, with a little bit of a cheat -- an action-packed, lush cheat, but a cheat nonetheless. The real story opens up a few pages later, introducing Steven Ripley, "the hero we'll need to save the world," and his producer brother Alan, "the man we'll have to settle for instead." It's these sorts of quirky asides that make Sable's script breezy and fun, as we blister ahead through the wreckage of 9/11.
Here's where Sable's theme really comes into play: that the most dangerous weapon of all isn't a bomb or a gun, but imagination. As I wrote above, this is a theme that could be dangerously self-indulgent -- think M. Night Shamalayan's completely inaccessible Lady in the Water -- but it's a testament to Sable's abilities that he finds a reason to make this work. Alan's fall into a clandestine think tank devoted to thinking about the unthinkable runs by quickly yet organically, setting up a nice status quo for the remainder of the series.
Artist Julian Totino Tedesco is a great partner for this sort of book -- he seems to be the kind of artist BOOM! cultivates, a guy who values quality and clarity rather than flashiness. Tedesco seems to be a mix of a Mazzuchelli with a hint of Paul Pope, or a Pia Guerra drenched in shadow. It's a nice look for the series, especially considering Tedesco does both pencils and inks. His colorist, Juan Manuel Tumburus, works mainly with paler colors, but for the murky morality of the series, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The art is certainly not cluttered by Tumburus' work, and at the beginning has a bit of a pop art quality to it.
Of course, this isn't a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination. Sable's science and conspiracy theories sometimes just don't ring true -- I'm not questioning his research abilities, but the typical connotation of botox is to paralyze the muscles as a relaxing agent rather than a tightening one (sort of like having a stroke). So the idea of having Joker-esque rictus grins takes me out of the story a bit. Similarly, there are a few times when the politics become jarringly unsubtle, such as the line about "America finally has the war with Iran that it's craved." It's certainly within Sable's rights to write it like that, but the dismount comes off as less powerful and more of a self-indulgence. (Even if it looks horrifying and beautiful to see on the page.)
The thing I'm curious about is how quickly Sable takes Alan through the Unthinkable program. It's an organic transition, but part of me wishes we could have seen more of these quirky characters (sporting Thank You For Smoking-esque names like The Editor, Big Oil, and Outbreak). That said, the beauty of comics is that time is fluid, so here's hoping that Sable does take us back down that road in future issues, as Alan struggles against the unthinkable creations of his own design. But as far as first issues go, Unthinkable is a great book, taking a tired formula and making it hum with a newfound energy.