Art by Sheldon Mitchell, Joe Weems V, Rick Basaldua and Arif Prianto
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow Productions
Review by David Pepose
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a knockout!
Gliding on equal parts style and high concept, Robert Kirkman has nailed it out of the park with Stealth, an all-too-human take on the power -- and the fallibility -- of costumed crusaders. While previous chapters of Kirkman's Pilot Series have arguably skewed more towards violence for violence's sake, this series wins you over by giving its characters inescapable and all-too-relatable instances of conflict, doubt and loss.
In certain ways, of course, Kirkman's story is reminiscent of his popular series Invincible, in the fact that Stealth's resonance revolves around a father and son. But whereas Invincible has always had a somewhat light-hearted air to it -- likely due to the art of Ryan Ottley -- Stealth zigs where its predecessor zagged, exploring the dangers of an aging superhero struggling with Alzheimer's-related dementia. In that sense, we're not only sympathetic for the once-great mystery man -- and his son Paul, who struggles beneath the weight of a thousand disappointments -- but there's a real unpredictability here that has so much potential.
Meanwhile, artist Sheldon Mitchell in many ways feels like the spiritual descendant of Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri. His edges are just as sharp as Silvestri's, and there's a nice sense of musculature and all-around panache to the action. While his faces sometimes don't have quite the finessed perfection of Top Cow artists like Nelson Blake II, Mitchell really excels in the quiet moments here -- the look in Stealth's eyes when you know -- you just know -- that he's a prisoner in his own runaway brain is heart-breaking. He lends a lot to this story by adding so much tragedy to his images -- you may fear this hero, but you feel for him even more.
Ultimately, the biggest obstacle for Stealth is whether or not Kirkman and Company have it in them to take on another drama about fathers and sons. In this regard, Kirkman may be a victim of his own success -- while Invincible has continued to succeed over the falling out of the protagonist and his alien invader father, I think there's even more creative potential to be mined with Stealth. Standing head and shoulders above the other Pilot Season picks by high concept alone, this book soars with some striking art and characters that hook you in and don't let go. A book that is as engrossing as it is heartbreaking, the only tragedy worse than Stealth would be for Top Cow -- and its massive voter base -- not to see it continue.