Writer: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Art: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Stewart R: I may stand alone here, but following several years of critical, unmissable hit after hit titles, I do feel that Image's surprising run has slipped into more of a mixed bag as the breadth of releases has expanded and the quantity of new books month on month has increased. This 'levelling out' however may be no bad thing if it allows the truly great debuts to stand out from the crowd, bright and prominently. With that in mind, enter Renato Jones: The One% #1 by Kaare Andrews (Iron Fist: The Living Weapon).
As the title suggests, this is Andrews' look into the distribution of global wealth in a post 2007-2009 recession world, but from a comic book slant where the vigilante protagonist, The Freelancer, takes on the corrupt, bloated, grotesque fat cats who care nothing for the despair and destruction that their spoils have wrought and the human cost at the heart of it all.
Andrews kicks things off in brilliantly mystifying style, dropping us into a mansion-hosted birthday party for a single page before the subsequent couple of pages swallow us whole in a flashback to horrific events that highlight this writer/artist's keen use of black and white space to build simple and evocative imagery. From there we're led to the main set piece of this debut where titular Renato Jones, a trust-fund millionaire with an apparent arrogant and aggressive streak, finds himself aboard a philanthropist's yacht, where he discovers over the course of several hours just how depraved and despicable a hedge-fund manager can get.
It's fair to say that the initial leg of this story has you grating your teeth at those characters who abuse their power, their position and those they deem to be beneath them - even Jones for a good while - but it's a necessary step to demonize the antagonists in stereotypical and overblown fashion in order for the Freelancer's deadly vigilante skills to be the eventual hand of justice that you root for. While the somewhat crazy action takes place in the present, there are flashbacks to scenes of childhood loss and underhanded deeds by adults who should have been protecting the young, rather than their own interests, and the true mystery lies in the true story and legacy of Renato Jones and what that might become.
The art is truly something else with Andrews pencilling, inking and colouring the whole thing. He once again relies on a shadowy, thicker ink style throughout (something we saw similarly working well in his Iron Fist series) that accentuates his expressive characterisation, playing 'cartoony' in moments, but remaining right at home in the sombre tones of each and every page. The best panels are those where Jones' face is hidden in shadow, the pupil-less slits of his eyes giving us a glimpse of the vengeful menace within.
And this is only the beginning of the menace I can imagine as Renato Jones takes further fictional capitalist billionaires, philanthropists and oligarchs in his sights as the series progresses. Wherever we're taken with this - and I can envisage that Andrews will jink and twist us with an unpredictable plot ahead - Renato Jones: The One% #1 is a standout debut well worthy of your time and attention. Mr Andrews, it's safe to say that you have 100% of my attention for issue #2! 9/10