Writer: Glen Brunswick
Artist: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i)
So, Romita Jr. returns with the second issue of his ‘gritty-cop-meets-the-afterlife’ series. And after quite enjoying the character dynamics of issue #1, it’s a shame to see issue #2 ditch most of that in favour of an extensive explanation of how the “Gray Area” functions. Chance spends much of this issue fighting the various denizens of this supernatural limbo that he finds himself trapped in, before being recruited to “GrayWatch”, a kind of afterlife policing unit. With little reference to the events of the previous issue, and none at all to much of the strong character development that took place, it seems like this issue is wasting much of the potential of the first in favour of a thorough, redundant exploration of all of the nooks and crannies of John Romita’s gray area. It’s as though co-plotter Romita is more concerned with showing off his great ideas through his excellent, disciplined artwork. It’s a natural flaw for someone who is predominantly a comic artist who turns to writing, and it makes for imaginative, distracting reading, sure – but it lacks focus.
We see a slew of new characters introduced this issue – a possible love interest, a seemingly “surrogate” son, and lots of odd alien characters – but I can’t really see there being enough space in three issues to accommodate a story which makes all of them necessary. Considering the extra material at the back of last month’s issue claimed that alien characters had (at least initially) been rejected on the grounds of being too confusing, this seems like another occasion where a little more tight discipline on the story would have been an advantage. As it is, there’s a feeling that little has moved on. Chance is obviously learning the benefits of a more humanitarian outlook on the world, and it seems like there may be an opportunity for him to genuinely atone for his past indiscretions, but it’s all very simple moral-of-the-story type stuff.
It’s a let down on what was already a so-so first issue, and I really wanted to like it, but for $3.95 it’s probably not worth your money. After two long issues, it feels very much like we’re stuck in early-origin-story territory, and if there wasn’t just one concluding issue to go, I’d likely be dropping the title without waiting around to see what happens. But we’ll give J.R. Jr. one last shot.
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