Prodigy’s Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

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The perfect hero meets the ultimate problem.

In a week of major comic book releases, Prodigy #1 may just be the most significant. This series features a reunion between two superstars – writer Mark Millar and artist Rafael Albuquerque. It’s also the second Millarworld book to debut as part of the new arrangement with Netflix, meaning we’re likely to see this series become a feature film or TV series before long. But while this first issue offers plenty of visceral appeal, it struggles to craft anything resembling a deep, compelling narrative.

Prodigy introduces a new hero cut from the familiar Millar cloth. Edison Crane is a man who seems to have it all. He’s disgustingly wealthy, devilishly handsome and so brilliant he can teach himself complex skills in a matter of hours. A veritable modern-day Sherlock Holmes, Crane is a deep thinker who staves off boredom by solving the world’s most difficult problems and carrying out stunts that would be considered suicidal for a lesser man. The gist of the series is that Crane finally encounters a problem capable of taxing even his prodigious mind.

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There’s a delicate line that has to be walked when dealing with a protagonist this pristine and perfect. Crane basically has no flaws to speak of. He succeeds in every task he embarks upon. He’s physically and mentally flawless. Even by the usual standards of the comic book realm, he’s a walking example of wish-fulfillment brought to life. It’s very difficult to make a character like that seem interesting. And unfortunately, this first issue fails in that regard. Even the sporadic glimpses of Crane’s difficult childhood do little to improve matters. Presumably, the whole point of this series is to explore what happens when the perfect mind finally encounters a problem, too difficult to solve, but there’s little sense of that struggle at this early stage.

Granted, there’s a certain amount of fun to be had in seeing this fusion of Batman, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes charming his way through his daily life. It’s just a superficial sort of fun. It doesn’t help that this issue reads like two separate story pitches were grafted together at some point in development. There’s the focus on Crane’s glamorous, globetrotting life bumping up against a much different and larger-scale sci-fi conflict. Hopefully the two halves of the story can find a way to better coexist moving forward.

Albuquerque at least brings an attractive, dynamic look to the series. His art brings a definite sexiness to the story, both in terms of figure work and just the general vibe of Crane’s exploits. Albuquerque’s action sequences crackle with energy, particularly during a scene where Crane performs a feat that would make Evel Knievel’s knee’s buckle. As superficial as this comic’s charms may be, it’s definitely a looker.

Unfortunately, there’s one glaring flaw that prevents this series from reaching the same visual heights as Millar and Albuquerque’s previous collaboration. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors don’t pair as well with Albuquerque’s art as Dave McCaig’s did on Huck. They have an eerier and more washed-out quality. There’s also a weird amount of inconsistency when it comes to elements like skin tones. There are panels where Crane barely looks like the same person.

The Verdict

Prodigy #1 is an underwhelming debut for the second collaboration between Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque. The main character is flawless to the point of being boring, and the more outlandish plot elements sometimes seem at odds with the character-driven portions. The series looks great, as with most Millarworld books, though even the art quality is diminished thanks to the inelegant coloring. This is a book that requires a lot of fine-tuning before it can reach its full potential.

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