Hunter-Killer Vol. 1 TPB
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils and Art by Marc Silvestri, Eric Basaldua, Kenneth Rocafort
Inks by Joe Weems, Matt ‘Batt’ Banning, Rick Basaldua, Studio F
Colors by Steve Firchow, John Starr, Chad Fidler, Blond, Tyson Wengler
Letters by Robin Spehar, Troy Peteri
Top Cow Productions
Cover price: $24.99; On-sale: Feb. 13, 2008
What if you were told the Cold War was not fought over nuclear weapons, but over the control of ultra-sapiens — humans genetically engineered to be weapons and traded like stock between nations. What if you were told these ultra-sapiens got a little too aware of the power they held, struck back at their controllers, and now are either in hiding or have farmed themselves out to the highest bidder? And what if you were told the entire world as you know it is a complete fabrication, a complex series of lies and cover ups to hide the real truth of the matter — that one man, known only as the Czar Obscura, runs the entire planet out of a secretly surrendered White House?
This is the world that Ellis has his eyes opened up to when a secret operative known as Hunter-Killer, an organization that seeks out rogue ultra-sapiens to either rope them back in under some control or terminate with extreme prejudice, set their targets on him. Ellis, who is an ultra-sapien with the power to mimic any powers in his range and who happens to have every single known ultra-sapiens data hardcoded into his DNA, is just the tool the Hunter-Killers have been looking for to put the operation into overdrive!
As Ellis is becomes begrudgingly acclimated into the Hunter-Killers, he learns more and more about the organization, their harsh tactics, and the mysterious Morningstar who oversees everything. He also finds himself constantly being attacked by Morningstar’s supposed enemies who believe that he is in fact the villain. What is very clear from the start for Ellis though, is that absolutely no one is to be trusted, and that a cloud of unease is forming over his head as he realizes that he may be nothing more than a pawn to be manipulated.
There is a very good reason why this trade paperback, which collects issues 0-12 of Hunter-Killer, has been dubbed “The First Season” — it is as infectiously intelligent and entertaining as any of the best continuity-based television shows out there, and with the current WGA strike still going, “programs” such as Hunter-Killer may very well be the place to turn for fresh entertainment for those that cannot stand reality television. Each issue is ripe with new information to challenge everything you’ve thought up to that point, and each issue ends with an nail-biting cliffhanger that will have your fingers automatically flipping to the next page. Like a television show that is released on DVD allows the viewer to digest the entire series in one sitting, this collection allows the reader to blitz through the entire story from start to finish. There are no mini-arcs resolved stories halfway through, this is epic scale, maxi-style storytelling that will only be resolved in the “season finale.”
The masterminds behind this action-espionage thriller that is overflowing with conspiracy theories and double-crosses are Marc Silvetri and Marc Waid. While it was Top Cow CEO Silvestri who brought the original outline to the table, it is writer Marc Waid who fleshed out the idea and as the sole writer for the series, has kept a singular vision for where the story needs to go. As a writer who has dealt with every major publisher and most of their flagship titles, and has been dubbed the unofficial historian for DC Comics, Waid knows what has been done to death in the superhero genre and knows what it will take to make a new series in the overcrowded market stand out.
To that end, Waid has performed nigh-flawlessly. Each issue flows with new information, disinformation, twists, turns, and plenty of environment-destroying action! By using his main protagonist Ellis as a primary focal point to keep the story going the reader usually does not know much more than him. As Ellis’ becomes more acutely aware that he may be a pawn and being lied to with every breath, so too does the reader feel the frustration of being lead on, and the hunger to know what the hell is really happening. And just when you think that you finally have it all nailed down, the very next page turn will throw a new variable into the situation. Using Ellis also allows Waid to wade through the heavy exposition without being forced or unnatural.
With his previous work on X-Men and Legion of Super-Heroes, Waid is no stranger to keeping track of dozens of characters, multiple storylines, and how everyone is interconnected. This experience also gives him an edge in creating fresh characters that avoid being pigeon-holed as knock-offs of already established heroes and villains. His character-juggling experience shows through undeniably in Hunter-Killer, as Waid introduces us to a dozen or so main characters and dozens of secondary characters, all of which serve a purpose as the story continues. No set-up goes unused and every seemingly throwaway line or comment is a clue to unraveling the mystery.
Coming in to give the series its visual look is Marc Silvestri, who stays pretty much on par with his established angular style and character designing that has been seen in his Witchblade and Darkness creations and has all the dynamic action, bold coloring, and hyperactive detailing that can be easily associated with his other books. Silvetri pencils the first few issues to set down the groundwork for the appearance of the book and how it should flow before handing off the pencil to Eric Basaldua and Kenneth Rocafort. Basaldua and Rocafort each are able to apply their own styles and round out some of Silvestri’s hard angles, but do their best to keep the book uniform throughout.
In keeping with the “first season” motif, Top Cow has included more then enough special features is this collection to make most DVD releases jealous. Included here are all the cover designs, from the standard cover down to all the variants and exclusives. Mark Waid offers up a brief history of the creation of the title, while Marc Silvetri offers up a sketchbook gallery. Also included is a dossier on the main characters and a few secondary characters that detail their history and feature pin-up artwork for each of them. Rounding out the impressive bonus section is the 32-page Scriptbook that includes the written script for the first issue as well as additional notes, facts, and artwork.
Hunter-Killer is a massive undertaking, and while it was a cliffhanger in its original single-issue form, it has transformed into the ultimate page turner here in its collected form. So take the phone off the hook, put on some hot water on for tea, and join Ellis for a look at what is truly happening in the world around us.