Written by Mark Sable
Art by Julian Totino Tedesco
Coloring by Juan Manuel Tumburus
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
The potential was Unthinkable. But with the end product, I can't help but feel that something was lost in translation.
Mark Sable's latest issue of Unthinkable starts off with the same well-paced hook of the first issue, giving us all the information we really need to establish the stakes: biowarfare, terror in the streets, and a leaner, meaner U.S. of A. Sable really plays to his collaborator Julian Totino Tedesco's strengths here, as the images feel moody but clear, sketchy but not crowded.
But after about the first third of issue, the tone suddenly changes. It's weird to see where this series has gone, because with the first issue -- focusing on Alan Ripley and his introduction to the Unthinkable program -- it had so much promise, examining the sheer danger of imagination over brute force. But brute force is the majority of this issue, as Ripley somehow manages to stab his captor in the neck with a jagged piece of wood and then shoot his way out of a military black site.
If you're as confused as I am that a novelist is suddenly John McClane, well, join the club.
Indeed, the thing that disappoints me so much about all this is that it was never really telegraphed, so Ripley's newfound action hero skills come at the cost of his character. We never really know much about his personality, or how the idea of imagination comes into play with him or his colleagues, despite having colorful names like Isomer, the Editor, and the Prophet.
It's a shame, because Tedesco is really a perfect fit for a series like this. Even the action movie posing -- where Ripley says the team is "close to Armageddon. But not as close as we should be" -- looks great, with just the right amount of shadows and the perfect composition. The colorist on this book, Juan Manuel Tumburus, plays more of an understated role, which based on the other books I have read from BOOM! Studios, makes me wonder if this is more of an institutional style -- either way, the washed out colors feel fine for Tedesco's art, adding a bit of a harshier mood to the whole black ops storyline going on here.
In any event, Unthinkable has really lived up to its name, as its amazing premise is becoming submerged in a growing identity crisis. Is this a globe-trotting thriller? Because if so, the high concept has been largely lost, and the "unthinkable" armageddon scenarios are feeling a bit too vanilla for my tastes. I feel that the most interesting meat of this story -- the life and times of Alan Ripley, government think tank employee -- is really get short shrift here, and unless Sable can get a stronger handle on his characters' personalities, the increasing action -- no matter how clever it is portrayed -- is going to be ringing on some deaf ears.