Twenty-Seven #1 and #2

by on Jan.19, 2011, under Comics

Despite its early popularity, I didn’t review the first issue of Charles Soule’s Twenty-Seven because it seemed like a straightforward Faust tale and I wanted to see if it could come up with any interesting wrinkles in that basic fabric before I spent time on it. With the second issue arrived a fuller revelation of the nature of the hero’s deal, and I’m pleased to say that yes, there are some fresh new ideas here.

Well, one big idea in the Mooreian sense and a few more smaller ones. The big one is that where Faust wanted world domination, Will Garland, the protagonist of Twenty-Seven, merely wants to reclaim his ability to play guitar. His rock stardom has been cut short by a repetitive stress injury to his right hand.

That’s both a much more sympathetic reason for a Faustian bargain than the usual, and a much more human one. Even those of us with no need to bring the world to our feet can relate to the fear of losing the ability to do what we love. After all, with few exceptions that’s coming for us all someday.

The smaller new ideas are in the mechanics. Instead of the Devil, Garland’s deal turns out to be with something like the concept of the number 9, with possible interference from some other supernatural agent. The ceremony to cure him, which kills 81 cats and the mad scientist who sets it up, also leaves him with a mysterious console implanted in his chest. Each time he activates that console he temporarily gains a power; each will only occur once and last a short time, and after 27 uses of the console he will die. He’s not sure how many times he’s already pressed its buttons when he learns this.

There are a few silly moments—he visits a university mathematics department to try to learn what it might mean to be indebted to “the number 9,” and shockingly finds a grad student who takes him seriously.

I’m slightly worried that it takes until midway through issue #2 of this four-issue miniseries before the setup is really done. It seems like the basis for a much longer-running superhero story. Still, it’s a solid premise and I want to see where it ends up.

The comic is printed on a larger-than-normal format page, which has apparently made production tricky but which also gives Renzo Podesta’s lovely art room to breathe. Check out a preview here.

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