(Image Comics, creative team: Mike Costa, Nate Bellegarde, Tamra Bonvillain, Sal Cipriano)
From the start, there is no shortage of ability, talent and craft that went into the making of this very challenged comic book. There's a well executed plot twist near the end. There is really clear and detailed artwork and coloring. That's all fine. What's at issue is the virtual hit this issue performs on the city of Detroit. From a conceptual standpoint, it created a deeply problematic protagonist with shades of Bob Reynolds (not any of the good ones) with no real antagonist and the kind of tragedy porn that has plagued previous looks at the city. While writer Mike Costa speaks mightily about his time as a Detroit resident and even brushes against current happenings in the city, it comes across exploitative. Then, well, there's the whole fact that there's a comic about a fully masked dark clad Black superhero that's been published since at least 2017, then this looks like gentrifying the concept, and … well, that's not great. So … yeah, this is gonna be … RATING: NO. JUST … NO.
Maybe we're being too negative about it … what did William Satterwihte, creator of the aforementioned Stealth comic think about it?
Reviving and refreshing a concept originally presented in 2010 by Robert Kirkman and Mark Silvestri as part of Top Cow's Pilot Season initiative, this new Stealth series takes some cues from the original but flips things on ear with a race swap of the main characters. Announced in conjunction with a movie deal with Lee Daniels attached to it, Stealth appears to be poised to be a new big thing in superhero comics. Does the new series get off to a good start? Let's see!
Right away we are introduced to a young newspaper writer as he struggles through a story about a decaying Detroit, a once thriving metropolis now reduced to blight. What becomes obvious when we later come to find out that the writer's story is actually supposed to be about an art show is already evident when he leaves his aged and mentally declining father to take a walk — Tony, our lead, is struggling all around, tired and beaten down by all the hardships thrown at him by life. It's a familiar tale — a depressing tale — a young Black man full of woe and despair and burdened by a cruel world lashing out when and wherever he can. Just then as Tony leaves we are introduced to the titular hero soaring the night sky, exclaiming, "this is freedom." But as we see the "hero" turn a relatively benign holdup into what probably counts as attempted murder (at least) in front of two kids who go from admiring to astonished in the blink of an eye, we soon come to realize there is no outlet here either — this is all very dark and very depressing stuff. Through a couple more sequences of Tony being down and out conveniently followed up by our "hero" turning heroic situations into horrific ones we have the big reveal which is technically already revealed in the marketing for the book — Stealth is actually the father, armed with a high tech battle suit. After a very shocking and telling turn of events the story ends on a dramatic cliffhanger.
This is a promising start for this new iteration of Stealth, one that has potential to be very good. One key to fulfilling this potential is hope that the characters at some point actually feel like more than just caricatures — Tony the angry brooding writer mad at the world, the gruff father pushing him away, even the unfeeling and dare I say angry female editor who has no sympathy for Tony. While Tony does seem to show great concern for his father, he also apparently hasn't been concerned enough to know the father regularly(?) masquerades as a vigilante. There's a question to that "regularly" part as we really don't find out anything about Stealth here aside from some hints that he has been active enough to be known to the local media but not enough to be more than an urban legend to one of the kids mentioned earlier. With more time for development it can be assumed some if not all of these concerns will be cleared up but for now, after a well hyped debut issue, the concerns are there. Nate Bellegarde's art is very strong, one particular highlight is the way he does a really good job of "selling" certain key emotional moments. Meshing perfectly with Bonvillain's gritty colors and Cipriano's strong lettering, the visual package is a winner.
William Satterwhite is a comic creator and designer currently based in Douglasville, Ga and has written for BlackSci-fi.com and Blacksuperhero.com. William is also a comic creator best known for the long running superhero webcomic Stealth: A New Hero For A New Millennium, originally presented online in 2001 as well as a new Stealth series though Shortfuse Media launched in 2018.
STEALTH #1 (OF 6)
WRITER: MIKE COSTA
ARTIST: NATE BELLEGARDE & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
COVER: JASON HOWARD
For decades, Stealth has waged war on crime in Detroit, but now he's taken his pursuit of justice too far. Only reporter Tony Barber knows that behind Stealth's reckless behavior is an older man battling Alzheimer's — his father. A father unwilling to accept that he's no longer the hero this city needs…with enemies all too eager to force his retirement.
Created by ROBERT KIRKMAN and MARC SILVESTRI, STEALTH is an action-packed series, perfect for readers who enjoy Black Panther and Iron Man.