The superhero and sci-fi genres have always been very closely linked. Many superheroes have their origins in freak accidents or scientific breakthroughs (sometimes both). In Dave West’s Blessed/Cursed series, the genre lines become blurred even further.
While both books feature completely standalone stories, they do both take place in a London that seems rather similar to our own, aside from the strange lab that comes in the form of the Prometheus building. In “Whatever Happened To The World’s Fastest Man?”, a bomb is set to go off in the belly of the building, with enough explosive to kill everyone in a two mile radius. The hero of the tale is everyman Bobby Doyle, who has the ability to stop time. With only one hour until the bomb explodes, Bobby stops time and spends a lifetime rescuing the potential victims.
In the second book “Missing – Have You Seen the Invisible Man?”, the now rebuilt Prometheus building houses a research lab where a team is trying to solve the central problem to an effective invisibility formula. While they have been able to perfect a solution that would turn an organism (human, rat, etc.) invisible, it renders the subject blind, as light would pass directly through the eye. They are close to solving the problem when the lab is attacked and James Williams, one of the researchers, has no choice but to inject himself with the experimental formula. Now completely invisible and with his colleagues dead, James becomes determined to find the reason for the attack and ensure that his formula doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
While set in the same world, the stories have more of a thematic connection than anything else. Both are tales of an ordinary man sacrificing himself for the good of others. In “Fastest Man”, Doyle’s rescue literally takes his whole life, even though to everyone else, only an hour passes. It is a tale that brings a whole new meaning to “With great power comes great responsibility”, as for Doyle, it seems with great power comes an inescapable duty. Doyle’s dilemma of saving everyone from the bomb at the expense of his own life is constantly hovering in the pages of the book, and while the ending becomes clear quite early on, West finds a way to maintain the tension of whether Doyle will actually be able to save a city before he runs out of time himself. It should also be noted that most of this is owed to the clearly defined rules of Doyle’s powers, namely that he must unfreeze time to interact with anything or anyone. Each time he picks up a frozen body, he loses precious milliseconds.
Speaking of the two different time streams, artist Marleen Lowe does an excellent job at differentiating between what is in “Doyle Time” and what is in “Real Time.” The difference is subtle, but distinct, and Lowe’s art makes it very easy to follow what might have been a more complex story:
“Invisible Man”, meanwhile, plays as more of a thriller than a philosophical look at heroism. Always a scientist first, James uses his analytical mind to attack the situation at hand and quickly finds himself out of his depth. He adapts to invisible life quite quickly, and for the sake of the story we go right along with him. Like Doyle, James uses his newfound powers for (at least in his mind) heroic purposes, although some might argue that he goes a bit too far to still be considered a hero. Unfortunately, while the book starts off strong, the ending gets a bit confusing and left me scratching my head. While our hero may live in a moralistic gray area, Joe Campbell’s harsh black and white style, leaves little room for gray and brings an inky darkness to James’ world.
Verdict: Both books are a wonderful mix of superhero and classic sci-fi. While “Fastest Man” is certainly the stronger of the two, it is a narrow margin.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our interview with creator Dave West!
Both Blessed/Cursed books are available to purchase online at www.accentukcomics.com, with digital copies available on Lush Comics and iBooks. You can find all of the Accent UK Comics news at www.accentukcomics.blogspot.co.uk. Keep an eye out for the third Blessed/Cursed book, “Has Kane Mesmer Lost His Magic Touch?”, coming soon!