Duel Identity Assumes Readers Know Where They Are

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Duel Identity 1

Every comic book is someone's first comic book.

That's been a truism handed down from the founding fathers of the industry. You can tell the writers who adhere to it. You can pick up one of their books, no matter the issue number, and within moments you are pulled into the story with a comfort level where you don't feel like a stranger, and where you can enjoy learning the things you still don't know. Those are the writers who leave behind lasting books, and thankful fan bases.

Elaine Lee is not one of those writers.

I became familiar with the characters of Artemis and Andromeda by way of Absolute Comics WHITE WIDOW. It was a guest appearance, where the Artemis character had been tasked with taking down the book's titular character. In that issue I learned that Artemis was the bad girl, that Andromeda was the good girl, and that they were both the same person taking on different identities for different purposes. That was an intriguing concept, because you couldn't really tell if the hero was a cover for the villain, or vice-versa.

When I picked up DUEL IDENTITY #1, I considered it fortunate that I had read the WHITE WIDOW story, because there was no hint at all that this dynamic existed in this book. I don't even know the character's name other than Artemis. I know she is filled with nanotech that changes her appearance, and that she works for a secret organization that calls itself The Group. Beyond that, the reader has to work to follow the story and the other characters, who look so generic that from panel to panel you can't tell them apart from each other. There's almost no distinguishing between a member of the Group, Artemis's date, the senator, or the evil corporate overlord. They're all "computer-rendered male by John Lam."

This is a first issue, but I'm sure that DUEL IDENTITY has had issues before it. However, there's nothing in this book to indicate that the reader has landed in the middle of an ongoing franchise. Even the indicia bears no indication of this being a "Volume 2" or a subtitled miniseries. it doesn't even have a pubication date. So a new reader may just assume they are on the ground floor. Which is fine, if the foundation was being set. It is not. First books that begin in media res are common, but they always find a way to fill the reader in on everything they need to know. DUEL IDENTITY #1 is too busy tripping over its dialogue to explain the plot that it forgets to tell the reader why the plot is important, let alone whether the people trying to pursue the goal are the good guys or the bad guys.

This one's a swing and a miss from the house that did so well in delivering WHITE WIDOW.

2.5 / 5.0