Pullbox Reviews: Aberrant #5 – Superpowered Beatdowns Aplenty…

David, a U.S. Army Special Operations Commander, distraught after losing his entire unit to a superhuman attack, wages an absolutely brutal one-man war on the eccentric billionaire and former superhero, Lance Cordrey, whom he believes is ultimately responsible. That is until Nelson Little, the head of a clandestine paramilitary outfit called Article 13, presents David with evidence that Cordrey may be a patsy, and David’s men were killed as part of a vast and twisted government/military conspiracy. Armed with this new information, David must dismantle the machine of said conspiracy piece by human piece while coming to terms with his own mysteriously emerging superpowers and wrestling with sincere doubts about Little’s trustworthiness

Former Army Major David Colbrenner, last surviving member of the “lead dealers” of Taskforce: Whiskey 6, knows one thing and one thing only. He hates that sellout glory hound aberrant (“supers” in this particular parlance) Lance Cordrey- aka: “20/20”- with a deep and abiding passion that borders on psychopathy. The only thing that’s kept Cordrey alive to this point has been more a matter of proximity than anything else. But now, Cordrey is on the run from his former keepers, and he has information on a conspiracy that will offer the creation of super-powered individuals to anyone who can pay for it. To keep Cordrey alive long enough to retrieve his information, the powers that be are sending the proverbial fox- that would be David, the man who wants to murder Lance Cordrey above all others- to guard the hen…

Having missed out on the first four issues of Aberrant- that’s the term used in this gritty action title to refer to “supers” or enhanced individuals- I almost passed the chance to check into the title. My default setting of “lazy and shiftless” was overruled by the fact that the good folks at Action Lab are awesome enough to send back issues to review, not just their current ones (just a note to any other reviewers out there who maybe haven’t touched base with Action Lab… they’re pretty friggin good to their media contacts, and put out some really good titles). A five issue binge later, I’m all caught up and more than happy to provide some words in support of a great book.

In keeping with the standard format (remember… lazy), we’ll start with the writing. Rylend Grant is a guy I’d like to know a little more about. His expletive-ridden dialogue may be a little off putting to some, a little harsh and over the top. Speaking as a veteran, I can reassure everyone that yes, we really do talk like that when we’re not in the presence of our grandparents or members of the clergy. Hell, I can’t really make any promises to the clergy. Okay, yes, we pretty much always talk like that, filters removed and thrown aside or stomped into the dirt, especially when in the presence of others of a similar (military) background. So it is that when David Colbrenner goes off on an f-bomb heavy tirade, it almost created feelings of comforting familiarity in me.

Not to say that Grant only relies on shocking dialogue to get a point across or beat it into the ground, because he’s done a pretty fair amount of world building here. In a reality where aberrants are just rare enough to be considered a commodity by any faction worth their salt, of course they would be heavily sought after by just about any military force in the world. Taken one step further, any private entity able to market a viable means of producing super-powered soldiers would be able to name any price, demand just about anything from any power on the world stage. It wouldn’t be pretty, and we can pretty much guarantee that we wouldn’t be seeing very many Avengers out there righting wrongs. In most cases, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that anyone with an inkling of power could be snatched off the street and spirited away to a blacksite for recruitment/conscription/indoctrination. This is the harsh world of Aberrant that Grant has proposed, and it’s one that’s based just enough in reality to make you wonder…

As always, when talking about a comicbook of any type, there’s a visual element. Davi Leon Dias has taken his cue from Grant’s gritty story and crafted a look based heavily in reality. There aren’t very many superheroes flying around in the sky, wearing flashy costumes and sporting cool codenames. There’s the one that’s been mentioned so far, 20/20 (aka: Lance Cordrey), but he’s been established in canon as something of a douche and not considered the norm. Most of the powered characters you’re going to see running around in Aberrant are just folk, doing what folk who can toss cars or shoot energy beams out of their mouths might do, and wearing whatever they feel like while doing it. In that respect, Dias has tackled the challenge of creating interesting people without the benefit of flashy costumes, and he’s done a great job of it. Going back to previous issues, I thought he did a particularly good job of showing the spec ops team of Whiskey 6 in all of their badass body stacking glory.

Dias’s art is fleshed out by the work of colorist Iwan Joko Triyono, who uses a somewhat muted palette with an excellent use of shading and lighting effects. Triyono’s use of a specific color tone to differentiate scenes works out really well, particularly in this most recent issue where character POV shifts back and forth between David and Lance. It’s a great effect that makes the bounces easy to follow along from one page to another.

Finally, credit goes to HdE for the lettering. While some might think that there isn’t really much to say about lettering in comics, I’m gonna say they would be wrong. I’ve seen bad lettering, and it will ruin an otherwise great book. The key isn’t in being bold and exciting for the sake of it, but saving it for when it’s really needed. In general, dialogue is solid when presented in a simple, easy to read font, and sound effects can’t be so forceful that they get in the way of the action. That’s a pretty fine line that HdE walks, and earns him full marks all by itself. Where HdE really stands apart is in this issue where Lance Cordrey is being chased by a “Big, Dumb, & Ugly” aberrant. In previous issues, Lance has been established as kind of a drug addled corporate stooge, but in this one it’s become clear that he’s actually a Tony Stark kind of guy. While being chased, his inner engineer comes out as his panels are filled with equations… still subtle enough to not get in the way but more than enough to show that far from just rabbiting in the face of danger, Cordrey is “doing the math” on the fly and attempting to resolve his situation. It was actually one of my favorite parts of the issue and is, in fact featured on the issue’s cover. HdE, you have my respect and admiration for walking that particular tightrope with skill and flair.

Aberrant is, above all, a hard hitting action title. It’s got super-powered beatdowns galore, with shadowy conspiracies on the government and corporate level. For the Medal of Honor crowd, Aberrant also has a healthy dose of military black ops, with all of the authenticity you could ask for in a comicbook. In short, it’s a gritty title, not suitable for the young & impressionable or the easily offended, which delivers the goods on all counts. I’m glad I dove in when I did, and I’m giving it four and a half (out of five) slightly psychotic smiley faces.

Volume 1 available now… and damn I love that cover!
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