Brooding in classic black and white, Second Chances has the visual feel of the old ’70s comics magazines that were targeted at more mature tastes and best kept out of the hands of children. Heavy ink washes, splatters, and deep shadows define the book more readily than delicate detail; swathed in half-light, faces are made masks, and rooms are made cave-like.
With a visual language so heavily presented, one would expect the narrative to likewise be filled with bold, moody accents, and this book doesn’t disappoint. Our narrator runs a service that gives people the titular second chances by way of faking deaths; it’s a deeply maudlin concept, presented with the full straight-faced hardboiled language of noir.
But it can’t be that simple. The book doubles down on its concepts with high-tech ninja assassins, illusion-inducing homicide drugs, and a mysterious stranger. Yes, this is just the first issue.
With a book so steeped in style and premise, it’s with a bit of frustration to admit that the issue doesn’t land many of its dramatic punches, if only because we begin the story already at a loss to how to connect with it—a generic man named Paul, one of our protagonist’s Second Chancers, is mid-penthouse murder spree when he’s cut down by said robo-ninjas, but at this point we don’t have there wherewithal to connect to why this is compelling. Our protagonist is forced to expound on our dramatic framework as we’re assaulted by dark, moody hyper-violence.
We’re forced to interrupt that action so that the gimmick of Second Chances can be established — going so far as to give us a step-by-step of ‘killing’ a person off and creating a second life. A secondary narrator is introduced, vague off-panel motives provided for absent characters, and then that second narrator is attacked, again with no established sense of stakes or context.
The issue then becomes a soup of things that are assuredly very cool. That soup never becomes substantial, exactly. It’s compelling in that it’s implying that it’s compelling. One finishes the issue with no connection to either narrator or narrative, which is not great news for a first issue.
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