Off The Shelf: A Look At “Reality Check #1”

Off-the-Shelf-Logo“Try Something New.” That challenge is the whole reason for this feature’s existence. Month in and month out we buy the comics we know and love, the ones we look forward to every time but there are countless series that travel under our radar, ones that we just don’t give a chance and get passed by. That’s why I made a vow: every week I’d pick up an issue for a series that wasn’t on my pull-list in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. Welcome to Off The Shelf where we’ll discover if my leap of faith paid dividends this week. Also, I should mention that there be SPOILERS in this review. You are warned! ________________________________________________________

Reality Check #1realitycheck1Publisher
Image Comics
Creative Team
Glen Brunswick and Viktor Bogdanovic
Prior Experience With Title
None, but it is a new property so I’m pretty much in the same boat as everyone else. I’ve never read anything that Brunswick has written and this is Bogdanovic’s first mainstream work. All I knew coming in was that it concerns a comic book writer/artist whose character comes to life into the real world somehow.
Why Did I Give It A Shot?
Humor mixed with an interesting premise combined with some insight into the wacky world of comics has my attention and deserves a chance in my opinion.
The Issue
We open with our main character, Willard Penn, after all of his work has disappeared without a trace from his computer which isn’t even the strange part. The strange part is that everything about his comic book concept has been erased from his mind as well, as if some outside force had a hand in the matter. We flashback to earlier, Willard haven just given birth to his newest creation, the comic hero known as Dark Hour, a hero that he describes as Batman with a libido. We are then immersed into his comic with this portion of the issue featuring Dark Hour and company acting cheesy, silly, and melodramatic which is a nice juxtaposition to the rest of the comic taking place in the “real world.” The fact that he made this hero desperate for companionship mirrors Willard’s life, a life that is devoid of any human connection, a life that sees him consumed by his work. Anyways, an Independent comic book publisher likes the concept and even sees a potential movie deal in the works with one caveat: he wants to know how the story ends. Excited beyond belief, Willard calls his mom, leaves a message on her answering machine, and then thinks of who he shall call next…coming up blank. He thinks back to his youth and his big brother Timmy, a brother he looked up to, a brother that was his best friend, and a brother that looked out for him. One such instance in particular was the time that Willard split his head open while goofing around and Timmy had to rush him to the hospital, getting him there fast enough to avoid a fatal ending. As the years flew by, Willard continued to seek Timmy’s guidance in life including advice on how to get a girl he felt real affection for, Alison, and succeeding. Everything was going great for him until his brother was attacked, head split open, and it was up to Willard to take him to the hospital this time. Unlike his bother though, he gets Timmy there too late and his brother doesn’t make it. This causes Willard to sink into a downward spiral. He cuts everyone out of his life, focusing on his comic work, which causes Allison to slip away from him and leaving him all alone. The end of the issue takes us back to where we were at the beginning, albeit with the revelation that the reason everything is gone from his mind and the computer is that his ideas have come to life. Willard Penn meet your flesh and blood fictional character Dark Hour in person.

Favourite Lines:

Willard Penn: If you live in L.A., beautiful women absolutely litter the streets. My apartment is just a stone’s throw away from the major studios. This is why I forgo the coffee machine…and begin my morning ritual at the local Starbucks.

Willard Penn: Weight of the world must feel like a feather with an angel like that by your side.

Willard Penn: OMG! She’s exactly what I want…Vampirella, Catwoman and Black Cat all rolled into one.

Willard Penn: It’s not what you think…it’s a character sketch!
Young Aspiring Actress: For a film?
Willard Penn: Actually…it’s for a comic book.
Young Aspiring Actress: Yeah, that’s why I came to Hollywood…to be in a comic book.
Willard Penn (Thinking): Moments like these might’ve hurt if I didn’t have real focus.

Willard Penn: The editors at Marvel and DC are constantly emailing to check my availability…but they never offer me any work. My mother says I just need to tell them that I’m not available.

Willard Penn: My older brother was the real artist in the family. I was good…but his stuff always blew me away. If I had visions of being Will Eisner…well, then he was Hal Foster.

Willard Penn: When I was at a loss…Timmy had the secret decoder ring. He helped me stumble forward with the precision of a locksmith. He helped me find the appropriate key…to unlock her heart…wherein she discovered, that I had already beaten her there.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Final Verdict: While I will chastise them for revealing the whole shock ending right on the cover, that doesn’t deter me from being excited about where this series will go next. Its debut was a nice mix of humor, drama, real life, and cheesy goodness with a meta slant to it. The next issue could go either way with the series running the danger of crossing into outright silly territory but I have faith that it will continue to build on the momentum it experienced with this first issue. Thusly, I’m going to have to Add It To My Pull-List and see if my intuition was correct.

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