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Underworld #1

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006
By: Robert Murray



Writer: Frank Tieri
Artists: Staz Johnson (p), Tom Palmer (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


This was an issue I picked up due to the pulp-inspired cover by Sean Scoffield, which caught my eye as I shopped for my usual weekly stash. Plus, with a title such as Underworld, I guessed there might be some cool mafia-style fun inside, akin to an episode of The Sopranos. My only real concern, petty as this may sound, was that the issue did not have any kind of parental advisory warning. This is a modern crime comic book, so there should be some foul language and irreverent violence throughout. I know I sound like an otaku in search of fan service, but these elements truly add to the realism of the whole work. After reading Underworld #1, these same thoughts crept into my mind. When I see a hardened convict smashed in the face with a fist, I donít expect to read ďGeez! My @#$&%iní nose!Ē Looking at symbols that are meant to express profanity really distracts me, diminishing the impact of this crime story. This really should have been a mature readers title, giving the creators freedom to express their ideas in ways they probably envisioned originally.

Still, this seems to be a solid premise for a comic book mini-series. This is the story of Jackie Dio, a convict who has had many run-ins with super-powered types in the pen and has come out the stronger for it. In fact, in true mafia goombah fashion, he believes he is better than any of the poseur super-villains that make a name for themselves through artificial enhancement or ability acquisition. He is the very definition of tough, and he doesnít mind letting everyone else in the world in on this fact. Now Jackie has been released from prison and is entering the world of the super-villain underworld for the first time. True, he has been fighting this element in prison for the last ten or so years, but now he is in a world full of powerful villains who didnít get caught, and he might be in a bit over his head. Like I wrote, this is an intriguing idea that, if cultivated sufficiently by Tieri, could become a great mini-series and, possibly, a monthly series, though that may be stretching it.

Concerning the art, I donít think that Staz Johnson and Tom Palmer are the right artists for this particular series. The facial expressions for the variety of characters donít change much, leaving a very static look for many of the scenes. Plus, the art is not particularly gritty for a comic book with this kind of subject matter. This is art that is suited for Amazing Spider-Man rather than an urban saga. Still, Iím willing to stick with this series just to see if it heads in a direction that will ultimately be satisfying; namely, pitting an extraordinary, albeit powerless, street tough against some of the second-string super baddies of the Marvel Universe and proving that powers do not make the criminal. If nothing else, itís great bathroom reading!



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