Ikari Press's Brand Has Trouble Picking a Plot

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Brand 1

BRAND is one of many new independent comics coming from the crowdfunding trend that has grown up over the past two years. The brainchild of writer Antonio Brice and artist Caanan White, the comic book is mostly impeccably drawn and colored, and each individual scene is compelling in its narrative.

It's when looking at the book as a whole where things suffer.

When we begin, we follow a young girl, presumably a runaway, who gets picked up by an older gentleman who gives her a ride from Wyoming to Michigan. He even gives her cash almost upon first brush, and his greeting is a cryptic line from eastern mysticism. Despite that every alarm bell should be ringing, she gets in the car with him all the way to Michigan, then picks his pocket on the way out only to be overcome by an attack of conscience. Her conscience doesn't bother her as much later when she starts lifting from others, resulting in a police chase she narrowly evades, as her activities have caught the attention of others who help her.

This apparently is not her story, because we don't see her again in the book.

We then are introduced to a philanthropic businessman who markets a technology to assist in the finding of runaways. That does tie into the first part of the book, in ways we are not given to understand. All we know is that the businessman is no good, because he's also a crime boss with large-scale Machiavellian schemes afoot.

That brings us to what seems to be the central focus of the book: a well-to-do black beekeeper who cooks, sets trays on babies (no spoilers, you'll have to see the panel in question), and -- oh yeah -- has a floating liquid-metal AI accompanying him at all times that can become technology and help him pull a Shazam from big fat black man to big muscular black man, who has a network of fellow "hunters" and a white assistant who refers to him as 'Master." (The relationship appears to draw from The Shadow's agents, and the way they all called him Master.) He's been called in to find someone named Jacob, and he's in a rush to do it.

Which is where things end. Abruptly.

So what are we working with? A runaway girl whom we know nothing about, a criminal whom we know nothing about, a guy with a cookbook, and a superhero with no origin and an undefined power set--connected (if at all) by the flimsiest filament of a plot thread.

If we were looking at a monthly book, it's slightly more forgivable to have so many balls up in the air that haven't come down yet. You come back in four weeks, see if the hooks were worth setting, and then either move on or continue to wade in deeper. But BRAND is not a monthly book, and even if it were one would still have to address the violation of comic book law which necessitates the hero be given an origin of some kind for the reader. (Team books can sometimes get away with this even if they're all new characters, because it's a different storytelling dynamic;) This is a shame, because the drama is evident in the scenes, and the artwork is at the upper tier of industry norms. But given that the next issue will be another crowdfunding venture, I am not convinced that first-time readers will be as willing to jump aboard for a second round of fundraising. But I'm willing to be proven wrong.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0