Paul Lai was lucky enough to be at Image Expo last Thursday for Multiversity. Here’s what he learned about one of the announced books, Kaare Kyle Andrews’ “The One %.”
Kaare Kyle Andrews is coming off a twelve issue run on “Iron Fist: The Living Weapon” where he was The Living Comicbook Machine, tackling writing, pencils, inks, colors, and heck, fight choreography. Onstage at the Image Expo announcements, he unwound a candid testimony of the come-to-Jesus moment when he grasped his long and otherwise positive relationship with Marvel was indeed that between a corporation and a contracted employee. Creators working with Image try not to besmirch the Big Two and bite the hand (he credits Marvel for feeling as much like a “mom and pop shop” as a corporation), but nevertheless the insinuation was clear among the Image-friendly crowd when he unveiled his upcoming title: The One %.
The book’s premise reasons that a contemporary superhero would pursue the real crooks that wreak havoc scot-free, and so Renato Jones doesn’t hunt the criminalized poor, but infiltrates the richest percentile of the world that now owns more than half its assets. (Not that far-fetched.) This is comics, so Renato Jones ain’t Elizabeth Warren at a hearing or Pancho Villa on a horse. He looks like his name sounds, slick suits and gigantic gun, although Andrews remains coy about whether his protagonist inherits, earns, or fakes his one percenter status. And the action will be thick, as Andrews described in the Image Expo press conference: a “neo-noir high adventure tale” that finds it milieu “in the world of the super-rich.”
As Andrews said, The One % is “not a political book, but…the stuff in the air that I’m interested in.” Andrews doesn’t plan to depict any actual denizens of the super-rich elite and his book probably won’t instigate any occupations of Wall Street… immediately. But make no mistake: Andrews reveals that the book is his response to the disheartening sight of the working class kid he sees at cons, surrounded by posters of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark and, yes, Danny Rand, asking her/himself, “why are all the superheroes rich?” The book comes from this creator’s guts, from the “empty” feeling that our capitalist arrangements often leave us with.
Andrews will again be master of all trades on this book, and his one-person-show was a contrast to the profuse talk about collaboration from the Expo’s other creative teams. Not that Andrews is un-collaborative; in person, he is charmingly and disarmingly good-natured. But he chatted with me about the powerful effect when he can move seamlessly back and forth between tasks, how pencil layouts reframe the text and colors rise from the same imagination as the figure work. It seems to me the way of the cartoonist auteur. Indeed, rich collaboration happens in the dialogue in the cartoonist’s own head, and Andrews’ “Iron Fist” attests to his genius, boding well for his new creator-owned work.
Though the poly-talented Andrews is also a filmmaker, his regard for the comics medium means he’s not writing “The One %” to be optioned as a film, but aims to make the best comics he can. In fact, for “The One %,” he is leaning slightly into the cartoonier end of his wide-ranging visual repertoire, though he mentioned perhaps including the same kinds of occasional and experimental visual flourishes that made His “Iron Fist” so dynamic, inspired by influences like “Blade of the Immortal.”
I’ll be eager to read this contemporary Robin Hood yarn, spinning out in Image’s popular six-issues-and-a-trade (with possibility for more) format. I would be aboard if only for Kaare Andrews’ talent and pagecraft, but I’m also watching with avid interest how the fiction speaks to our startling realities, that as Thomas Piketty writes in Capital in the 21st Century, “there is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently,” as portentous-sounding a threat as any zombie virus or death star.