Reviews: The Centurion #1

Posted: April 11, 2016 in Reviews
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Reading through the first issue of writer/director/photographer Chris R. Notarile’s new live action comic book series The Centurion is kind of like watching one of his films on YouTube: it’s fun, engaging, and definitely feels like a lot of hard work and determination went into it. But while this issue does have a number of positive elements that will surely entertain any Notarile fan, there are a number of things that will also bother and might turn off both long time comic book readers and new fans curious about the world of Retcon Chris has been building up through his series of films.

The Story

This first issue follows Kayla, a former Army Lieutenant turned superhero named the Centurion (originally established in The Retcon Chronicles). Through a series of flashbacks, we learn more about Kayla’s early superhero career before launching in to her tracking down the source of a mysterious explosion at a research lab. The cause? A woman with nuclear superpowers!

My Thoughts

First, the positive. Chris is an active photographer in his spare time, and the practice definitely shows in each page of this issue. Each shot is gorgeous and crystal clear, with everything he wants to convey being well lit and executed. Even the actors in each shot (with some exceptions) are convincing in their body language and facial expressions, giving the entire book more of a traditional pencil and ink comic feel. Speaking of the other characters, the dialog and characterizations are believable and work within the confines of the Retcon world. Sure, a lot of this issue is written with a very classic, Silver Age type of feel to it, but honestly, I think that works well here.

I also appreciated knowing more about the Kayla character and her previous superhero work, particularly how her story seemed intertwined with Phantom Faye, another Notarile superhero character. How this fits in with the Phantom Faye YouTube series, on the other hand (where it seemed that Kayla was meeting Faye for the first time) is still up in the air for me. I do wish Chris peppered in the flashbacks throughout the series, rather than pushing them all in the first few pages, so we could focus on more action and character development in this first issue, but how it’s been presented here is still acceptable.

All that having been said, let’s talk negatives. If you’re not a fan of Chris’s YouTube work, then you might not enjoy this story. It is a little stereotypical, and heavily relies on the reader having knowledge of Chris’s shared universe of films. Heck, I’ve enjoyed his films for a few years now, and still completely forgot who Jack and Jill were when they popped up in one of the titular character’s flashback scenes. The photographic effects for the various superpowers and weapons also leave a little to be desired, with some instances (like portions of the Nuclear Woman scenes) looking far too obviously fake to be completely convincing in a live action setting.

This is also what I’d like to call the “expositional comic”, in that this issue is working overtime to set up literally every other detail for the upcoming story (introducing the characters, giving some backstory, setting up future conflicts, etc). While it will most likely end up working just fine as part of the larger whole, as a standalone it currently suffers from overly heavy amounts of dialog and a lack of any real conflict. Sure, we have the Centurion smashing through a window to intimidate a kidnapper, but that’s really about it.

Probably the most disappointing thing about this whole issue is the lack of the promised villain on the cover. With a subtitle like “Wrath of the Nuclear Woman,” I was really hoping to see more of the irradiated female doing just about anything. Instead, we get to see her fry two random nice people and make a costume out of radiation (somehow). I know I mentioned a minute ago that an assumed familiarity with the characters was a bad thing for this issue, but I can’t help myself in saying this: I already have an idea who the Centurion is based on Chris’s films, so I would have enjoyed seeing more of the Nuclear Woman in action instead. Throw some of Kayla’s flashback time her way! However, I’m assuming there will be another issue in the future that shifts the focus and lets us see more things from the villain’s perspective later on.

In the end though, I’d hesitate to really call any of the problems in this first issue “serious.” It is just starting out, and is likely still finding its legs in terms of storytelling and direction. I imagine that these things will eventually sort themselves out and get better as time goes on. I still have to give both the photographs that make up the panels, as well as the actors, a heaping pile of praise for creating a unique and visually interesting take on the traditional superhero story. Way to go for pulling off the first issue Chris. Can’t wait to see where it goes from here!


Will you pick up a copy of The Centurion #1 when it’s released? Let me know in the comments below, or with a tweet through that widget on the left. Better yet, like the Comic Books vs The World Facebook page, subscribe to the official Youtube channel, and follow the official Comic Books vs The World Instagram to keep up with all the latest on Comic Books vs The World.


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