The cover and T+ rating might lead you to believe Stealth is a simple ol’ fashioned superhero romp complete with bright colors and typical superhero antics. Looks like something off the Marvel or DC press, right?
Well, got a load of this opening text:
“Detroit mocks all attempts to save it. Like a sick animal gone to the ground. Detroit growls in suspicion of any hand extended toward it.”
No, this is not a Rorschach comic, but that grim monologue about the crumbling infrastructure of black neighborhoods tells you everything you need to know about the complex politics lurking in these pages, ready to pounce and wake us up.
See, Stealth isn’t quite a superhero. Anti-hero would be more apt—because Stealth isn’t very stealthy. In fact, he’s a brutal vigilante who wreaks havoc across Detroit, brilliantly representing a different, older era of brutality we accepted in our “heroes.” He thinks he’s a symbol of justice, but he’s so vicious, it’s hard not to think he’s just another symbol of violence in a city that doesn’t need more of it.
However, our true lead is the author of that Rorschach-type text, a meek journalist named Tony. What makes him more nuanced than his writing is the fact that he desperately wants to love his crime-ridden home. But when he puts fingers to keys, all he can write about is the pain he feels and sees. Futhermore, his attention is divided because of his father, who’s crippled by Alzheimer’s.
Granted, the presentation could be better. Mike Costa writes in a very blunt way, whether in dialogue, characterization, or in conveying plot. For example, to illustrate the dementia of Tony’s father, we get a scene where dad is found bleeding and can’t remember why. Or to show that Stealth is a little too violent, as he throws a robber through plate glass, the owner of a shop exclaims: “Hey, who will pay for that window?! I had less money than that in the register!” But at the end of the day, the creative teams’ hearts are in the right place, so these aren’t crippling problems.
Nate Bellegarde’s art is fairly similar to Ryan Ottley’s, and due to Robert Kirkman’s involvement with this title, I wonder if that was an intentional choice.
I point this out because the two artists are so similar, they share similar pros and cons. So if you like Ottley’s art already, you’ll love Stealth. Certainly, Bellegarde’s art has personality especially compared to lots of books out there, so that’s a plus. However, a stiffness permeates the panels. Also, much of the framing and compositions are rather flat, unable to elevate pages with lots of dialogue above talking heads.
Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are…fine. She’s able to do a lot more with exteriors and action scenes, incorporating purple and blue as a motif representing Detroit and Stealth’s similar seething rage and violence. Yet scenes that are more domestic are stuck with equally domestic palettes. I fear Bellegarde’s flat choices may have hindered true excellence from any colorist, although that’s hard to say for sure.
Overall, while not a perfect or subtle book, Stealth has commentary on its mind and surely many a plot twist up its sleeve. It can often be hard to picture new superheroes making a splash in today’s Batman/Spider-Man obsessed world, but Stealth certainly deserves attention for its gumption.