Tuesday, February 18, 2014

21 Down: The Conduit Trade Paperback + Series Review

21 Down: The Conduit
DC Comics - Wildstorm
176 pages
$19.95 (2003) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401201203

Contributors: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Jesus Saiz, Paul Mounts, Richard Starkings, Comicraft, and covers by Joe Jusko

Reprints: 21 Down #1-7 (of 12)

Synopsis: Preston Kills is a morose 20-year-old with the power to see the final moments of a person's life before they died just by touching them.  As if seeing the final moments of dead people's lives wasn't bad enough Preston is supposed to die on his 21st birthday.  Now you see why he's so depressed.  It all started when he was visited one night by an entity known as Herod and gifted/cursed with this particular ability.  He works in a tattoo parlor and attends terminal cancer support groups because they're the closest thing to how he feels.  His brother Robert is a police detective and Preston is constantly helping him with cases.

On a whim of desperation, Preston fills out an online questionnaire from a website called 'You Will Be Judged'.  A beautiful blonde spook shows up at his doorstep and she knows a lot about Herod.  Turns out Preston was genetically altered into something called a 'Genie' and Herod is 'judging' these beings when they turn 21.  It's not quite clear what game Herod is playing, but the spook, Mickey, is trying to find Genies and figure it out.  She's a mystery wrapped up in an enigma as Preston soon learns.
Preston helps his brother with a murder case
Mickey and Preston form an uneasy partnership as they try to contact more Genies.  Unfortunately the Genie's they find are not as benevolent or psychologically sounds as our man Preston.  They're actually really dangerous and the two are put in increasingly deadly situations.  What is Mickey's hidden agenda and why is she being pursued by the FBI?  She's a loose cannon and almost irresistible to Preston's raging hormones.  Can he trust her (she lives out of a high tech van after all)?  Things get ugly when Preston's brother Robert gets involved.

Pros: Interesting concept for superpowers, decent art by Jesus Saiz, writing is okay, good covers by Jusko

Cons: Plot and script are a bit rough, initial story setup was not readily apparent and told after introduction to the characters, not many answers and the series is abruptly ended at issue #12
Events heat up as Preston's brother Robert closes in on the killer!
Mike Tells It Straight: 21 Down was an impulse read after I read an interview with Jimmy Palmiotti.  He's such a great comic industry personality and I've liked his later work with Justin Gray (Jonah Hex, Power Girl, Hawkman).  I decided to check out some of their early work and this one came up.  It's set in the Wildstorm universe and superheroes exist.  Preston is bummed out he didn't get any useful powers and instead ended up with essentially a curse.  The series has some good points and was a nice alternative to traditional superhero comics (i.e. spandex).

The writing is just okay and I didn't feel like the story setup with Herod was ever really fleshed out.  This volume collects the first major story arc which introduces all the main characters.  Preston was an old soul living in a 20-year-old's body.  Mickey Rinaldi, the rogue FBI agent, was a beautiful, but odd woman.  Unfortunately the series was very abruptly ended at issue #12 without any real answers or resolutions.  It's also too bad the final five issues were never collected, but considering the final issue wasn't even close to an ending I wouldn't expect to ever see it happen.

This was my favorite cover by Jusko

I enjoyed Saiz's art and he grows over the course of the series.  It was really cool that he drew all of the issues and it all looked consistent.  Overall the series was enjoyably dark, but wasn't overly memorable.  I think there was one reference to Planetary which confirmed the Wildstorm link.  A few concepts were pretty cool although no great reveals ever came.  I can't really recommend this book too highly because it ends so abruptly and the writing is not highly polished.

TO BUY and Recommendations: