(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Written by Chris Miskiewicz
Art by Palle Schmidt
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Time slips by so quickly. Already Thomas Alsop is on issue #3, and I’ve been backpedaling, trying to be caught up so that I can read it and enjoy. I’ve got to come up with a good name for that…”Passage of Time and Missing New Stuff Algorithm?” POTAMNSA? Nah. I suppose there isn’t always a good acronym for everything. As it turns out, reading the back issues to catch up is almost more enjoyable, because there’s no wait. (Trades? What are those?) This is especially apt because the last page of issue #2 was the beautifully haunting image of the twin towers spectrally illuminated by the spirits who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Chris Miskiewicz must be a New Yorker. His love for the city has focused on the island of Manhattan, which is magically protected by the Alsop family. Thomas is the current “Hand of the Island”; a title passed through the generations from his great, great, grandfather. The Alsop family was “cursed” by the natives who once inhabited the island, and that curse involves “hearing” the island and caring for its needs. Up to this incarnation, the family has done an admirable job, but Thomas is probably the most reluctant of heroes. He has taken advantage of his power, and the family’s vast array of magical history and weapons, and used it to create a reality television show in which he takes out spirits.
While the first two issues give you a general background as to what is up with Thomas, the third is his revelation, his waking up to his purpose. Miskiewicz has woven the 9/11 tragedies much further back into the mythic history of the island. This issue is when Thomas is at his lowest, and we follow him as he meets with his relatives, and see the point when he realizes that the waste he’s made of his life is affecting Manhattan Island.
I like the small physical area inside the story. Relatively speaking, the Island of Manhattan is small, but that size helps to show how a place can really get under someone’s skin, how a character can be so influenced by place. Thomas is the island, and the island is him.
Palle Schmidt (Mean Streets) uses what seems to be a mix of watercolor and ink wash to wonderful effect. The flashback scenes, in which we see the first Hand going about his business and learn about the ill-fated Towers site, are lovely and really do a wonderful job of separating the two timelines visually while keeping them connected inside the context of the story. As I mentioned before the last image in issue 2 was stunning, and he continues that fine work in this issue as well.
Chris Miskiewicz has brought a new tale to the comic stands in Thomas Alsop. Think of it as John Constantine if he was only effective inside the SoHo district. Manhattan Island may seem small, but it allows for a much closer look at individual stories without having to go hopping about the globe. With a wonderful focus on character and place and with Palle Schmidt continuing to draw and ink, this series will stay on my pull list, now that I finally got to it.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.