In the year since its inception, Image Comics’ Massiveverse has grown to include all manner of superhero stories. Radiant Black is an updated version of Power Rangers. Rogue Sun deals with magic, monsters, and a teenager inheriting a legacy he never wanted from a father he never knew. And Inferno Girl Red is a coming-of-age story that just happens to feature a teenage superhero with dragon wings. The trend continues with No/One #1 this week, which plays out more like a noir story than your usual capes-and-cowls adventure.
A string of serial murders strike Pittsburgh, wreaking havoc for a number of people. Police officer Ben Kern is forced to face the ghosts of his past. Journalist Danielle Gaines finds herself being thrust into the limelight when her bosses ask her to head up a podcast about the murders. Finally, there’s the mysterious vigilante calling themselves No/One. What is their end goal, and how are they tied to the murders?
This comic marks a return to roots for Radiant Black writer/co-creator Kyle Higgins, who shares scripting duties with Brian Buccellato. The seeds of the Massiveverse were technically planted during Higgins’ tenure co-writing the all too brief C.O.W.L., and he and Buccellato take to the genre like a duck to water. As the issue unfurls, we are introduced to our cast of characters and their ties to the murder saga. Whether it’s Kern’s family issues or Gaines struggling with the weight of covering such an incendiary story, Higgins and Buccellato’s script gives plenty of depth to these characters. It’s the secret sauce that’s made the Massiveverse work: for all the alien powers and superheroics, these comics are dealing with real life issues in a way that feels genuine.
What adds to the realistic vibe of the book is Geraldo Borges’ artwork. Borges draws his characters with very expressive eyes, which allows for the reader to know what they’re feeling even if not a single word is uttered. One page features Gaines’ reaction to her bosses telling her about the new podcast – “shocked” only begins to scratch the surface. Borges also goes for a cinematic approach in the beginning, delivering a two page spread featuring No/One standing atop the building in a snowy night. He even gives extremely cool design that fits with the tone of the Massiveverse – a sleek, silver helmet conceals the vigilante’s identity, and their entire body is wrapped in a jet black cloak.
Rounding out the artistic team is Mark Englert on colors and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou on letters. Englert’s colors are muted, throwing plenty of shadows on the Pittsburgh landscape and bringing the right amount of somberness to a graveyard scene. Otsmane-Elhaou comes up with a recurring element regarding characters’ speech bubbles; whenever somebody is whispering or upset, the letters go to lowercase, and the bubbles grow wobbly.
Befitting a superhero story about true crime, No/One #1 also comes with a few extras. There will be a podcast accompanying each issue, with Rachel Leigh Cook voicing Gaines. There’s also a timeline depicting the rise of No/One, which helps give some context to the issue’s events. Elements like these elevate the Massiveverse books from being just another superhero universe to a truly unique storytelling experience, and I’m glad it’s running throughout all the books.
No/One #1 proves that the Massiveverse isn’t running out of steam any time soon, delivering a visually stunning and tightly-wound superhero noir thriller. It’s a great reminder of everything I love about comics, as well as a glimpse of what they can be.
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