The new Milestone brings a series featuring the debut of an all-new superhero in Duo #1. Writer Greg Pak, artist Khoi Pham, inker Scott Hanna, and color artist Chris Sotomayor team up to bring a superhero that feels fresh and new.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Duo #1!
Duo #1 begins by introducing the two main characters, scientists Dr. Kelly Vu and Dr. David Kim, in bed, hands intertwined, as both prepare to pitch their scientific breakthrough to a potential financial backer. The decision to begin in bed highlights the romance between the characters, but also allows color artist Chris Sotomayor to highlight the physical differences between them without the story calling attention to it. It’s rare to see Asian-Americans of two different ethnicities in the same story, and even rarer to see the skin tones depicted as different from one another. In doing so, Duo immediately stands out.
The two leads are characterized by writer Greg Pak as a bit overambitious and more than a little naive. In some ways, that’s a bit of a turnoff (how many overambitious scientists are there in pop culture?). Their invention – nanobots with healing and regenerative capabilities – are on the verge of aiding disease, but they’re not quite there yet. Despite advances in artificial intelligence, the machines simply haven’t learned fast enough. And so, Doctors Kim and Vu are seeking funding to allow the nanobots to learn from a human brain. This goes about as well as you’d think.
In terms of visual style, Duo #1 is a bit more low-key, which some readers may not enjoy. Khoi Pham and Scott Hanna don’t go for a lot of in-your-face flourishes, instead opting for a naturalism that goes unnoticed – until they turn it up a notch. There are little moments throughout the book where they opt for heightened romantic imagery that stands out due to the realism of the artwork in the rest of the issue.
Additionally, Pham’s layouts are nicely varied. There’s been a trend in a lot of newer books for layouts that are decidedly more ”cinematic” – wide panels that narrow vertically, the type that evoke film aspect ratios or the proportions of a phone or tablet. Pham, however, tells the story in true comic book fashion, panels change vertically or horizontally as needed, inset panels highlight key moments. It’s a book that rewards looking at the page as a whole rather than going panel by panel.
As much good as there is in this debut, there’s a development in Duo #1’s story that just didn’t strike favorably, and to talk about it involves talking SPOILERS:
So, midway through the story, seemingly alien creatures attack Dr. Kim and Dr. Vu in their home, resulting in the accident that gives them their powers. In doing so, however, Kelly’s body is destroyed and her consciousness is seemingly transported into David’s body. It’s a choice that in a better world would simply come across as fascinating; the type of body horror that makes science fiction such a thrill to watch. Unfortunately, Duo #1’s release comes on the heels of a leak from the Supreme Court that indicates that the justices intend to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus ensure that the bodily autonomy of women stripped in a way that has not been seen in my lifetime. I’m not sure if that makes the events of Duo #1 triggering, but it at least struck me as ill-timed. It’s not something I hold against the book, but it is something that affected the way I felt about the book.
Beyond that, however, Duo #1 is a good debut that introduces a superhero that fits into the science-fiction mold of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, while also being its own thing.
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