The concept and world of “Absolution” is more interesting than the comic itself. John Dusk is a vigilante police officer -- one of several -- and, after years on the job, he’s begun killing suspects. The zero issue released two months ago set this up, while this first issue goes back to explain how Dusk went from law enforcer to serial killer, albeit of criminals.
To Christos Gage’s credit, Dusk’s transition is an understandable and believable one that begins with a superpowered skinhead that nearly kills Dusk until Dusk uses his powers -- a dark aura, sort of like smoke/energy he controls -- to cut off the perp’s arms and free himself. While he initially uses his aura to prevent the criminal from dying from blood loss, he stops when he sees the two women, only one still alive, that the skinhead has tied up and has been raping. He just allows the skinhead to die and claims that it was a result of the beating and being out of proximity —- and everyone believes him, because he’s a good cop and the dead body is a murdering, raping skinhead.
Gage also builds on Dusk’s career to date, suggesting that the horrors he’s seen -— and we get in brief flashes -— are beginning to take their toll on him. Again, all understandable. However, something about Dusk’s shift doesn’t feel entirely organic, as if his path is predetermined, and he must become what Gage wants him to be. His first step in that direction made sense, but little follow-up to Dusk’s feelings on what he did make his next murder, at the end of the issue, ring a little hollow.
Surrounding Dusk are two other superpowered officers and their take down of a meth lab is brutal and amusing, particularly the follow-up where a fellow officer simply says, “So... barbecue at my house?” after a great deal of emphasis was placed on preventing a pyrokinetic from blowing up the house. With the other police officers, Gage goes too far with the freedom Avatar provides, suffering from that initial instinct a lot of comic writers suffer from when the shackles of Marvel and DC are removed, and they can let the expletives fly. While these characters would no doubt use these words (and I am no stranger to them myself), the sheer amount is unbelievable and stinks of a forced level of ‘adultness’ on Gage’s part.
Dusk’s inner turmoil is also hindered by Roberto Viacava’s art, which isn’t developed enough to depict the level of subtle emotion Gage is requesting. Viacava does great work on the action scenes and nails Dusk’s vacant gaze when he’s out of costume, but can’t deliver the necessary facial expressions otherwise. His art often goes too far, making reactions overblown when something more subdued would be far more effective. If previous novice Avatar artists are any indication, though, by the end of this series, he will have improved quite a bit.
“Absolution” has a lot of promise and may very well turn out to be a great examination of the effects that being a superhero can have on a character over an extended period of time. The ideas are there, but the execution just doesn’t match them yet.