Publisher: IDW Publishing/MonkeyBrain Comics
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Dennis Culver
Price: £14.99 for the printed collection from Amazon or £0.69/$0.99 for individual issues digitally via ComiXology
Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver’s Edison Rex has a delightfully simple premise – what if the super villain actually defeated the hero? Overcoming his nemesis Valiant in the first issue, Rex has a moment of clarity that with his enemy out of the way it is now up to him, as the most powerful man on earth, to defend it, not to conquer it. They say the best villains always believe they are doing the right thing, and this goes to prove it.
Rather than wallow in the angst and darkness of this scenario, Roberson and Culver have a much lighter touch which gives the book a real charm and sense of fun. It’s very much a knowing pastiche of silver age cliches, with secret bases, clandestine organisations with acronym titles and high tech super weapons. Roberson clearly has a love and affinity for this kind of book as it is written with a really reverential tone but without ever being deliberately parodic. Getting the balance right between poking fun and creating your own identity is very hard, but Roberson manages it perfectly, as he takes the cliches of superhero culture and turns them on their head in delightfully clever and original ways. Suitable for all ages, it has a very smart, self aware tone as Rex attempts to manage the media, form alliances with old enemies and generally set about doing the right thing.
Culver’s artwork meanwhile has a really strong cartoony style which helps give the book its sense of fun. By not deliberately parodying a silver age style, which could have made the book feel more forced than it needs to be, it’s more reminiscent of a web comic like Evil Inc. than a full blown superhero book. Culver is clearly revelling in the cast of characters he gets to create and work with, using generous doses of Marvel and DC cliche but giving them a nice contemporary twist.
When we first reviewed Edison Rex, along with the original MonkeyBrain line up, we criticised it for being a bit unoriginal, however as you continue to read the story and see the directions it heads in you soon come to realise just how smart the book is. The first issue is a necessary pre-amble for setting up the world and requires it to be super-cliched. But once you start getting into the world of Rex and the characters begin to take shape you soon realise just how smart and self aware the book is, and this is where having the collected edition really helps.
Although the idea is really strong it isn’t anything new – we’ve been reading ‘What If’ books like this for years – however unlike recent examples, like Dan Slott’s work on The Superior Spider-man, the nice thing about Edison Rex is that you know there is no chance it will all be undone and reverted to the normal continuity so you can see Roberson and Culver are having fun stretching out ideas to their logical extreme and not being bogged down by a legacy.
Edison Rex is a real gem – smart, funny and beautifully drawn. It is the perfect, all-ages, post-modern superhero book that uses the readers’ knowledge of super hero conventions to smartly turn them on their head without relying on blood, sex and swearing to get the point across.