Monday, 23 December 2013

Fire by Brian Michael Bendis Review

Who knew Bendis was an artist as well as a writer? Bendis’ first comic, Fire, is both written and drawn by him and the black and white artwork actually isn’t bad. It’s not great by any stretch either but I’m surprised that he started out drawing comics as I’ve only known him as a hugely popular Marvel comics writer. 

Fire is rightfully little known because it’s really bad. An ordinary guy is recruited by the CIA on some hare-brained scheme to turn random civilians into James Bond superspies. The guy spends a couple of years being trained up, decides the spy life isn’t for him, escapes execution by the agency or something, yadda yadda yadda, the end. It isn’t worth detailing the feeble plot because, as anyone who’s read Bendis before knows, plot isn’t the guy’s strong suit. It’s interesting to see that right from the start you can see the kind of writer he’ll become – strong on dialogue and character interaction, utterly incapable of producing a paced story or coherent plot. 

Bendis’ characters are in love with nattering to each other but rarely say anything worth reading. The main character is the dullest man alive and is the reason why ordinary people are ordinary and James Bond is Bond, plus the whole transformation thing is totally unconvincing. Most of the time I had no idea what was going on with the guy going from Japan to France to England on “covert ops” for no real reason. There is no story so the character’s movements are totally arbitrary and uninvolving. Fire is definitely the worst spy thriller I’ve ever read. 

Art-wise, Bendis is capable but no great shakes. Some scenes look like he’s emulating Frank Miller’s Sin City books though doesn’t successfully pull off the light and shadow effect. Other times it just looks like the most forgettable comic book art with crazy panel arrangements for action scenes that confuse rather than excite. Often he’ll simply draw a silhouette and slap on a massive block of page-length text so it’s like you’re reading an illustrated novel, showing where Bendis’ strengths lie. 

Bendis is a decent writer though that is something he becomes after a few years in the comics biz – here, with his first comic? He’s not very good at all. You can see the seeds of a good writer within but very little actual good writing, and it’s a good thing he left the art up to more talented artists. Fire is definitely one of Bendis’ most forgettable books and a complete mess of a spy story.


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