ArmorX #1 (2005)

Full disclosure up front: I’m part of a message board with writer Keith Champagne. I don’t think I’m biased in favor of liking his work, but please read this review with that in mind.

ArmorX is a scary comic.

It’s scary because the story’s protagonist, Carson Deeds, is a Columbine shooting waiting to happen. He’s lonely. He’s a brain, left out of the activities of most of his classmates. Lately he’s been talking about bringing a gun to the school prom and getting his revenge on all the kids who put him down. That’s scary enough, but what’s more scary is that Carson is pretty damn unlikable. He’s a jerk, mean to the people who like him and obnoxious to those who hate him. You can see why Carson is out down; hell, it’s easy to want to put the guys down. If you knew him in high school you would have hated him, too. Even when he’s getting his ass kicked, you’re rooting against him.

Then imagine a guy like Carson Deeds getting ahold of a super-suit that’s capable of flying him to the moon and blowing holes through solid rocks. Oh, and he finds the suit accidentally on prom night, after being a victim of violence from one of the high school students who hates him.

Yeah, that’s scary. It creeps the hell out of me.

The smartest aspect of the plot, it seems to me, is the way the story plays out. We first see Carson in the armor, experimenting with its use on the moon. Comics readers are so used to origin stories that we expect the man in the armor to be a hero, to perhaps fly back to earth and stop some bank robbers or drug runners or something. Instead, Carson returns to hurt those who taunted him.

Champagne, Smith and company have so successfully subverted the usual super-hero style that I have no idea what to expect in issue #2. That happens so rarely in comics these days. It’s especially nice for such a cliffhanger to be based more on the characters than the powers. In a sense the armored suit is just an extension of Carson’s angst. Even if he didn’t have the suit, Carson might have done something crazy. With the suit, he now has an excuse to go over the top.

This isn’t the most cheerful comic you’ll ever read, but it’s extremely well done.

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