The Silencer #1
Written by Dan Abnett and John Romita, Jr.
Art by John Romita, Jr., Sandra Hope and Dean White
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Once upon a time, Honor Guest wasn’t just a suburban mom and housewife. Once upon a time, she was the high-powered assassin known as The Silencer, using her combat skills and her noise-cancelling metahuman abilities to eliminate the enemies of Leviathan. But even if you can’t hear her coming, there’s something more than a little familiar about John Romita, Jr. and Dan Abnett’s new antiheroine - but even if some of the cliches slow the story down, the endearing characterization and show-stopping artwork make a strong case for The Silencer’s debut.
In a lot of ways, Romita and Abnett are treading on familiar territory, with the former-hitwoman-turned-homebody being a trope we’ve seen in Dynamite’s Jennifer Blood, Dark Horse’s Lady Killer, even in the film The Long Kiss Goodnight. Suffice to say, the trajectory of such a storyline feels almost preordained - no matter how far Honor runs, her old life is always going to come back for her with a bloody vengeance. In that regard, The Silencer can be a bit of a mixed bag - while seeing a familiar face in Talia al Ghul is a engaging if perhaps redundant bit of exposition, Romita and Abnett’s other new baddies, hilariously named Killbox, Bloodvessel and Breacher, feel almost of a bygone era, as they’re merely just thinly sketched, overly muscled props for Honor to beat up and earn her street cred.
But the ‘90s-style trappings of this book notwithstanding, it’s hard to deny Romita’s work here. Even with the villains being not especially memorable work, Romita’s work as a whole looks better than I’ve seen it in quite some time, with inker Sandra Hope rounding out what can sometimes be harshly angular lines. Romita’s been in the game long enough that he knows what can get an action junkie’s blood pumping based solely on instinct - for example, while the cyborg-enhanced Killbox is just another biker with tech flourishes on a design level, Romita’s able to use his hulking frame to build up the tension against the unarmed Honor, who has to fight this trained assassin using only a pack of colored pencils. Admittedly, while there are some beats that feel unnecessary (like Killbox’s “main power generator” resting in his crotch), the actual fight choreography has some real weight to it.
Additionally, Romita does great work with the quiet scenes of this book, giving Honor a warmth at home that might necessarily flesh her out beyond the previously aforementioned tropes, but at least does solid work at convincing a reader that her suburban life is something she believes in. Abnett relies a bit on the tried-and-true genre staples here - it’s similar to some of the cheese we saw when we were first meeting Jon Kent over in the Superman titles - but there are moments that ring true, particularly a moment where Honor panics over whether or not her son is safe, not remembering that she herself has muted the scene around her. That said, the overuse of tropes in this book can’t help but distract from the truly interesting angles of the book, like Honor’s noise-canceling powers, which make good use of Tom Napolitano’s lettering - but it’s hard to focus on bits like that when we’re also meeting Honor’s husband Blake, a ponytailed human target if we’ve ever seen one.
The Silencer is the kind of book that’s tough to judge on a first read, or even a second or third. As a standalone piece of storytelling, it’s solid and capable - but it feels a little too familiar to be memorable on its own merits. That said, John Romita, Jr. and Dan Abnett are certainly two talented creators in their own rights, and their overall execution is a sterling reminder of that - when you have Romita on a book, it’s often an event in its own right, given his track record. But a book can only survive on its good looks for so long, before it’s only preaching to an ever-diminishing choir. Here’s hoping that now that she’s back in action, The Silencer will make a louder statement for herself moving forward.