Hand of the Morningstar #1: Advent

Hand of the Morningstar #1: Advent (2007)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Action / Superhero ]

Creators - Brett Burner and Mike Miller

Publisher summary: In the storm of battle, it's hard to tell friend from foe. A turbulent stranger with hurricane-like powers takes hostages on an oil rig, calling himself the Tempest and claiming to fight for the environment. Showing up to battle him are members of the Hand of the Morningstar, a group of barely known, super-powered beings serving a mysterious leader. Who is really out to save the world? When this war is over and a victor emerges, the citizens of earth had better hope they've chosen their heroes wisely.

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 18 November 2007

Of Zondervan’s six launch titles, Hand of the Morningstar seems the least like manga. Let me be up front in saying I don’t care: it is a well-written story that shows a great deal of promise.

At the same time, purists will dislike the distinctly American art and the fact that it is a superhero story. However, I appreciated that it didn’t try particularly hard to act like manga: there were a few instances of super-deformed characters, but these were unobtrusive and felt in character with the story. It was amusing to see the nod to mechs in the beginning, especially paired with a stereotypical evil organization straight out of American comics… both of which are taken out by Titan in the introductory scenario. Being in black and white doesn’t hurt the presentation, though it might look better in color.

The artists do have one element of manga down, however: large panels. Too large, for the most part. When there are so many full page and double page panels they lose their dramatic effect. Moments such as when Tempest blasts Kami on the oil derrick are excellent uses of this technique, but there are a number of poorer examples in which the large panels serve no real purpose.

Despite the size issues, the comic displays solid pacing overall, varied panel design, and decent composition. It was also nice to see a Christian story that actually has good battle sequences. The fight between Tempest and Titan in the wind storm was an excellent balance of action, strategy, and plot development.

Fortunately, there are fairly realistic characters to go with the high-powered battles and action-driven plot. Given the slim size of the volume (physically and in the amount of plot covered) they have little time to develop, but they clearly display real character instead of vague archetypes or a list of traits. The development of Titan as Timothy was well done and thankfully understated; no angst-ridden melodramas here, just a real life story of desperation. I look forward to learning more about the other characters.

Through these things, the story is what truly stands out. Christian writing has an unfortunate history of hitting readers over the head with the message, so Hand of the Morningstar is refreshing. While who is really good or evil seems rather obvious (painfully so in promotional material), this pales in comparison to the fact that the story actually has moral ambiguity. I was impressed by the authors’ willingness to attribute to the Morningstar extremely Christian-sounding rhetoric. For that matter, it is encouraging to see a Christian comic that doesn’t feel the need to mention God when the story doesn’t require it.

As a whole this is a more mature story, which is a welcome change. Even stories intended for younger children could use writing that does not coddle the reader. Aiming for an older audience, Hand of the Morningstar doesn’t shy away from the realities of war – people do not all magically jump out of their vehicles before they explode. This is a significant step toward not sanitizing violence and hence toward limiting it, even in the context of an action story.

Though Tempest is obviously the main character, the story does not overuse him. It is good to see a protagonist who is honestly in the wrong, though one imagines this will change in conjunction with the introduction of Christian elements. Given that super powers in this world are not inherent (the Hand acquires theirs from the Morningstar), one must wonder how he came to possess his… but I have full confidence the writers will explain this satisfactorily as they continue this excellent series.

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