Now that’s a loaded word.
Because far too often, “boring” is used as an anti-intellectual catch-all phrase for something not deemed traditionally exciting regardless of other merits — especially stories.
But that doesn’t mean the word “boring” doesn’t have its proper uses. So with that groundwork laid, I must proclaim that Adventureman #3…is boring. Specifically, it’s boring due to its lack of a compelling main character, uninspired world-building, and frustrating art.
Spoilers for issues #1 and #2, but in recap, our protagonist, Claire has been affected by the Adventureman stories so much, she’s found a way to enter their world and gain powers. #3 picks up with her having been physically enlarged and empowered, much to the bewilderment of her “normal” family.
Yet, for all the plot developments and sparkly visuals, it’s hard to care about our protagonist or the story at large. Our heroine still lacks personality traits beyond the “plucky, overly competent hero” archetype so often used in bad blockbusters. But she also lacks character flaws that usually make for more interesting characters (whether they overcome those flaws or not).
Screenwriting guru Sterling Anderson once said in regards to writing great protagonists: “Inexperienced writers depict heroes as brave, stalwart, righteous, and God-fearing. The problem is that 99.9 percent of real heroes are tremendously flawed…I tell my students that when building heroic characters, throw as much dirt on them as possible…then take the leash off them and let them try to be heroic” (Beyond Screenwriting).
Yet, Fraction, despite his many years of writing, falls into the trap of giving us a hero so inherently brave and sanded down, there’s nowhere for her to go other than getting more powerful. And if I just wanted to see an avatar level up, I’d rather play video games.
As for the world-building, I must echo my previous complaints for #1. Fraction readily admitted in the afterword of #1 that he knows next to nothing about classic pulp stories, despite this whole series marketing itself as a celebration of pulp.
What’s more likely is that Fraction was enamored by the epic meta stories of Grant Morrison and tried to rip them off in Adventureman. This issue further cements that unfortunate theory by introducing a villainous behemoth known as the Abbathexiddion, the type of obnoxious bad guy name you’d come up with if you were parodying Morrison’s larger-than-life, verbose style. Like a heavy handful of Morrison villains, evil Abba even speaks one word at a time in the hopes we’ll take his silly theatrics more seriously.
Terry and Rachel Dodson’s art is fetching enough, but they’re the type of comic artists that reveal themselves as being better cover and pin-up artists than interior mainstays. Almost all of the artistic attention here is placed on the characters and very, very little is placed to the surroundings. While that’s not a crippling problem, especially since the color work helps fill things out, the amount of panels with blobby backgrounds becomes noticeable and cumulatively irritating.
A more pressing issue lies in the constant character “posing.” It’s good to have dynamic characters, but the people of Adventureman are so exaggerated, they lack weight and impact, especially in fight/action scenes, which overall lowers the stakes.
While some comics can overcome initial problems, Adventureman is still saddled with flat characters, derivative worldbuilding, and underwhelming art.