In the pulp genre, plenty of occupations have taken steps to turn vigilant and clean up their city. From doctors to radio announcers to playboys, there are plenty of examples of people who take their extracurricular leads from their day-to-day lives. This is something that carries on through the genre. While these crime fighters tend to fall into a narrow job window, there is always room for continuing the genre, to have vigilantes who take their cues from their office into the street. In “Flawed,” Chuck Brown takes a profession where people tend to be at their most vulnerable, therapy. With this new hero, Brown pays homage to the classic serials of the past and adds a contemporary flair. Featuring stylized violence and an intriguing mystery, “Flawed” #1 by Chuck Brown and Prenzy is a solid start to a familiar setup.
Written by Chuck Brown
Illustrated by Prenzy
Colored by Prenzy
Lettered by Becca Carey
BITTER ROOT cowriter CHUCK BROWN and superstar artist PRENZY (ON THE STUMP) reunite for this ultra-violent, high-octane limited series that’s Frasier meets The Punisher!
Gem Ezz is a psychiatrist in the Kafkaesque city of Setham, where corruption and brutality rule the streets. By day, she uses words to solve her patients’ problems. By night, she takes a more direct—and sometimes deadly—approach. But when her practice puts her in the sights of an immortal serial killer, Gem finds herself embroiled in a power struggle that threatens everything she’s ever known.
There’s nothing entirely original about “Flawed” #1, but that’s not necessarily bad because it’s a well-executed story. It’s a story of vigilante justice, a therapist who will sometimes take a special interest in ensuring her clients get a semblance of comfort. While Dr. Gem Ezz doesn’t wear an animal-themed cowl and her “secret lair” doesn’t have the glitz and glam of more colorful crime fighters, she is basically a superhero. In a way, it seems like Chuck Brown is doing his version of Sister Night from Watchman, a woman who isn’t afraid to take special action to make the streets safer. What makes the comic special is that Brown does a spectacular job of setting everything up and throwing in some intriguing twists. From the opening narration to the seamless transitions between the gentle voice of Gem to her violent alter ego, you feel the steady hand of Brown establishing his new badass crime fighter.
When the issue slips into the elevated reality of Leo Schmid and Higgs’ conspiracy, it comes as a bit of a shock, but it’s an intriguing setup for future issues. When you crack open the pages of “Flawed” #1, it starts as a seemingly straightforward vigilante crime story, but as you follow Ezz’s rampage and get to a man who apparently can’t die, it drastically changes the stakes. Again, Brown is subtle in the execution of the twist. The opening narration implies the city’s dark underbelly but doesn’t go so far as to suggest that it’s anything more than just a street-level crime caper. The issue doesn’t reveal much, just the implication that monsters like Schmid have something special going on. He’s the goose with the golden blood, which might explain why people turn a blind eye to his extracurricular activities (or maybe his changes have caused a sadistic streak.) There are no answers, so it encourages speculation, and Brown gives you just enough to speculate on before the next issue drops.
“Flawed” #1 feels like an elevated homage to the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. From Gem’s look to the high-octane action, Brown is making his mark in the genre. But that’s only one element of the comic. What brings the comic to life is Prenzy’s excellent art. Prenzy excels at balancing the realism and elevated nature of Brown’s script. That partially contributes to the surprise when you get to the heightened reality of Higgs and his criminal enterprise. Throughout the issue, Prenzy’s art shines. This is especially true as you fly through the city’s skies, following the apex predators of Setham. It’s an incredibly cinematic introduction, and Prenzy follows the action dynamically and compellingly. While the setup and cinematic nature of the art is evident in the opening panels, Prenzy’s action is next level.Continued below
The sequence of Gem busting through the lair of Leo Schmid is equal parts beautiful and horrifying, stylized violence that you might expect of John Wick or similar stylized action movies. “Flawed” #1 is bloody and brutal, but there is a level of detail to Prenzy’s art that makes it visually stunning. It’s the minimalism of the background combined with the blood splatters, the detail of just how Zee takes care of her victims. Prenzy also knows how to create dynamic movement in simple dialogue scenes, knowing when to ramp up characters’ reactions or when to keep the character in the whole panel. Again, this art feels cinematic, always guiding your eye to the action and moving you through the panels.
Again, nothing here is revolutionary, but it’s a great reminder that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel if you have a solid story and dynamic action. “Flawed” #1 moves at a rapid clip. It establishes the characters fast and gets them right into the action. It was honestly kind of shocking when you got to the end of the first issue, simply because it did so much with incredibly minimum effort. The issue leaves you wanting more without leaving you unsatisfied with the experience you get. While some comics are paced like a novel, setting up multiple mysteries and threads with little reason to come back, Brown paces this like a proper serial. You get just enough information to set the hook while giving you the action and adventure you want to check out next month. It’s an impressive balancing act.
Final Verdict: 8.5 While it’s not breaking new grounds, “Flawed” #1 is an exciting start that reminds you that being familiar doesn’t mean boring.