Spinning out of “Dark Nights: Metal,” the newest series in DC’s New Age of Heroes is “The Immortal Men” #1. A secret war that has been waging for years in the background of the DC universe, The Immortal Men and the House of Conquest battling for thousands of years. Tied up in all of this is an ordinary boy named Caden Park living on Earth. Find out what we think of the new series, and a few spoilers ahead.
Written by James Tynion IV
Penciled by Jim Lee and Ryan Benjamin
Inked by Richard Friend and Scott Williams
Colored by Jeremiah Skipper and Alex Sinclair
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual
“THE END OF FOREVER” part one! There is a secret history to the DC Universe of heroes who have protected humanity from the shadows since the dawn of time…and who can live forever. Enter the Immortal Men! The team, headed by the Immortal Man, has waged a secret war against the House of Conquest for countless years—but Conquest has dealt a devastating blow. When their base of operations, known as the Campus, is savagely attacked, the Immortal Men must seek out their last hope—an emerging metahuman known as Caden Park! Caden’s emerging powers may be able to ensure the Immortal Men’s survival—but will Conquest get to him first?
If you have seen any or read any young adult fantasy novel in the past ten years, the plot to “The Immortal Men” #1 is not going to hold many surprises for you. A young boy that though a bit odd appears pretty ordinary turns out to have some kind of connection to a world of magic that has been kept hidden from the rest of humanity. These are well-worn plot tropes, and “The Immortal Men” does not do much to try to pull away from them. Whether that works or not will probably depend on how much you enjoy these kinds of stories and this very basic, hero’s journey structure.
The plot is also a little slow-moving. In hero’s journey terms, we only just get to the call to adventure by the end of this first issue. But, some of this might be missing the point of what this series is supposed to be. James Tynion IV does a fine job writing the character’s and dialogue, even if the plot is pretty basic, though maybe that basic plot is the idea. For DC’s New Age of Heroes, the idea is to put the artists first, letting them take a bit more of the creative credit that we usually afford to the writers. Because of that, maybe the formulaic plot is almost purposeful. The story should mostly just be a vehicle for Jim Lee’s art.
Except that, if one has followed the production of “The Immortal Men,” Lee was not even able to complete the art for this first issue. “The Immortal Men” #1 was delayed because of it, and eventually Ryan Benjamin was brought in to help complete it and is the artist for the series going forward. Now, there is nothing wrong with Benjamin’s art. In fact, his style feels so similar to Lee’s that without knowing, one might be able to go the entire issue without noticing a change in artist.
The troubled production history might account for some of the looser aspects to the art in the back half of this issue. While the beginning of the issue is drawn with pretty sharp, detailed backgrounds, the later half has a lot of that detail fall away a little bit. Character’s faces become a little less exact, and there are a couple of moments where the faces end up looking just kind of off.
The character design, though, is entirely Lee’s work through and through, and whether that sounds good or not will probably depend a lot on how you feel about his design work in general. There are two groups of characters set up here, a good set of immortals and an evil set. The designs of many of the good characters are interesting enough without being too over the top. But the villains are some of the most 90s style character designs that I have seen in a very long time.Continued below
For example, one of them is called The Hunt. He has two swords, mechanical legs, a leopard patterned shirt with the arms ripped off, and lots of strange black lines across his face. It’s a very specific design aesthetic, and one that I’m sure some won’t be a fan of, but I think it’s kind of weirdly wonderful. The Hunt cuts off a character’s head, and then kneels down to sniff the blood off his swords. These moments with the villains are “extreme” and whether that seems like a bug or a feature will probably depend on the reader.
What is less a matter of taste are the designs of the world of the Immortal men. The small glimpse that we get of The Campus of the Immortal Men is a futuristic pyramid in what appears to be a huge, rocky cavern. Later on in the story, we see the ruins of what was once this shinning pyramid crumbled. The coloring work here by Jeremiah Skipper and Alex Sinclair is well done, shinning red at the beginning of the issue and then a sickly green when the place has been destroyed.
I’ve spent much of this review discussing the more super natural elements of the issue, and I don’t want to ignore the more mundane aspects. As I said earlier, the main character, Caden Park, only really becomes involved in these more supernatural aspects at the end of this issue. The majority of the time he just has strange dreams and visions, but his life is very ordinary. From what is shown in this first issue, there isn’t much to Caden. He has a few fun interactions with his parents, but mostly he just feels a bit bland. Like a generic protagonist of young adult fantasy.
I want to be clear, I don’t have any problem with young adult fantasy. I actually read quite a bit of it, both good and bad. And I don’t think that “The Immortal Men” #1 is bad. It just feels a bit bland. The decompression of this series means that nothing all that important actually happens in this first issue. And while Ryan Benjamin does a decent job filling in for Jim Lee here, I wonder what the series is going to be like going forward, when what appears to be the main creative drive behind the series, a well-known, veteran artist, is no longer attached to the series.
Final Verdict 6.5 – “The Immortal Men” #1 is a slow start to a series that, after this issue, loses its biggest creative name.