The Blacklist #1
Written by Nicole Phillips
Art by Beni Lobel
Colors by Esther Sanz
Letters by Annie Parkhouse
Cover by Alice X. Zhang
Release Date: July 22, 2015
Cover Price: $3.99
Alrighty then. Let’s take a look at The Blacklist #1, shall we? I went into this comic knowing absolutely nothing about it, or the television series upon which it is based. That’s right, never saw a single episode. To be fair, I don’t watch a lot of television, but I am a James Spader fan. This particular story arc of the comic is called The Gambler, in case that means anything to longtime viewers of the program.
So the introduction is pretty informative; Raymond “Red” Reddington was a naval officer who went rogue, sold a bunch of state secrets, and made it to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Apparently, during the twenty years he was in hiding, he ran a global criminal empire, buying and selling weapons and secrets for his own personal gain. And then suddenly, he gave himself up. Not just that, but he also turned in his contacts and business associates. Of course, he had a stipulation of working with some new recruit by the name of Elizabeth Keen. Is there something in their history of which I am unaware? Seriously, were there clues? The preface doesn’t do anything but create questions. It certainly didn’t answer them.
Having gotten a rough idea of who we are dealing with here, I jumped into the comic. Okay, I really just pressed a button to turn the digital page on my tablet but you get the idea. So we spend the first few pages getting to know the protagonists. Oh wait. No, we don’t. We see a snapshot of several different locations and timeframes. And a lot of dialogue. And I do mean a lot. I truly felt like the story was an adaptation of a novel, not a script for a comic book. Copious amounts of word bubbles effectively covered the majority of many pages. I get that we are seeing the setup for an espionage story that has stepped off the small screen and into our sequential art, but part of the allure of comics is the art. The pictures that could be, if done correctly, worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, the art takes a definitive back seat to the story here. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that there was a multitude of panels of people standing and talking. If you want to bring a thriller to the illustrated page, then by all means show some action! Even the explosion was cheapened by the use of silhouettes and an abusive amount of coloration. Additionally, the lack of facial expressions really bugged me. Everyone was always so serene and composed.
Writer Nicole Phillips obviously writes scripts for television. I mean that in no way to be disrespectful, but merely as a fact. The reader bears witness to this from the start, and is constantly bombarded with dialogue, while the tale is unfolding around them. I just don’t think it works for this medium. The storyline felt convoluted, maybe even overfull. The art had its moments to shine; Beni Lobel was obviously restricted in his work. I have seen some amazing drawing from this gentleman in the past, but I was not excited to see his art this time around. Knowing how much more he is capable of made this pale in comparison. In other words, the comic was heavy on the text and light on the graphics.
This is usually the point where I recommend the comic and explain why it’s a great buy. Well, unless you are a fan of The Blacklist on NBC, I don’t know if you’d like it. I can see the potential in this premiere issue, but it just failed to grab me and make me want more. In fact, I am pretty sure I won’t read the next one until I watch a few episodes of the show. I know there are going to be readers who will flock to this, and love every single page of each issue. I just don’t know that I’ll ever be one of them.
The main appeal of the show is Spader’s performance. Without that? Pass.
Comment by jrau18 — July 23, 2015 @ 9:33 pm
Oh man what a bummer. I still want to give it a go though, because i am a huge fan of the show. Just one question, what did you surmise about the relationship between Reddington and Keen?
Comment by Hestia Prytaneum — July 25, 2015 @ 1:00 pm
There isn’t much to base a reply on, to be honest. This was more case focused and not very character driven.
Comment by Waerloga69 — July 28, 2015 @ 6:26 pm
The comic after the read and knowing where it takes place in the overall cannon of the show was a good start but was hoping we would go a bit deeper … but they did say it is supposed to be 6 issues even though Titan is only showing the first three release dates. I wonder if the additional three will be distributed during the winter break from the TV show.
Comment by Troy — July 31, 2015 @ 2:24 pm
Yeah, i read it and got what you mean. But if you are a fan of the show, i guess you will like the jabs and Reddism’s thrown your way. Absolutely case driven and monologue heavy, but so is the show. I know it doesn’t really translate as a comic and the graphics could have been better. But overal because i know the show and it’s format i enjoyed it.
Are you going to start watching the show? i don’t watch a lot of TV either, but this show was too good to pass up.
Comment by Hestia Prytaneum — August 2, 2015 @ 8:16 am