REVIEW: Brilliant #2

by

Or – “Any Resemblance To Ultimate Spider-Man Is Purely Intentional.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to the expectation that a normal kid, given super-powers, would be more likely to trash stuff and rob banks than he would be to focus on great power, great responsibility and such.  But Albert’s dilemma may be more complicated than he thought, as his friends reveal the secrets of the experiments into super-powers.

BRILLIANT #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Jose Rubinstein
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Jennifer Grunwald
Publisher: Icon (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: $3.95

Previously, in Brilliant:  Albert is a brilliant (see what they did there?) scientist who has returned to school after taking time off to deal with the fallout from a bad breakup.  During his absence, he has stumbled onto the secret of superhuman powers…  Y’know, like you do.  At the end of last issue, he was utterly stunned to find that his schoolmates have likewise cracked the code that leads to superhumanity.  That’s quite a coinkydink, ennit?

THIS FEELS FAMILIAR…

There’s a problem when reading a book by an artist with a REALLY specific style.  Mark Bagley’s work here immediately reminds me of his work on Strikeforce: Morituri and New Warriors about a million years ago.  We open in a dorm room, which gives me the twin feelings of recognition and nostalgia, as Albert discovers the truth about the theoretical experiments his classmates have been putting together in super-powers.  Bagley is in rare form this issue, as we cut to Amadeus at a roulette wheel, using his newfound telekinesis to rig the wheel.  It’s an interesting combination of familiar story trope with patented Bendis dialogue, and it works really well…  until Amadeus tries to cash out and gets roughed up for his trouble, Terry Benedict-fashion.  The punch-out sequence feels very artificial, like a kid’s idea of how casinos are suppose to work based on a steady diet of George Clooney movies.  Things quickly pick up, though, as Amadeus loses his temper, and goes Doctor Manhattan all over his attackers…

…BUT I CAN’T QUITE PLACE IT.

There’s a very cinematic feel throughout this issue (and last, as well, now that I think of it), providing movie transitions from scene to scene, including one from a rampaging Amadeus to Albert daydreaming about his favorite superhero, The Blast.  (Blast’s costume looks mighty familiar, with red trunks, boots and cape over a blue unitard, but it’s probably okay, since the other guys aren’t using it anymore.)  The other kids get their character bits, reminding me more than a little of Morning Glories (one’s an insecure nerd bullied by his dad, one just slept with a member of the faculty, one’s The Chick) and the group finally inducts Albert into their secret:  Amadeus has been given powers.  There’s a twist, though, as the group needs his help, and things end on an ominous note as a federal agent arrives looking for the security footage from the now-half-destroyed casino.  There are a lot of familiar building blocks flying around in this series, but as yet they’ve not fallen completely into recognizable cliche patterns.

THE VERDICT: IT’S PARKER-IFFIC!

There is a strong resemblance to bits of Ultimate Spider-Man in the issue (Amadeus resembles a college-age Peter Parker, and I’m reminded of the Ozcorp storyline which revealed that everybody had the same origin or whatever) but other pieces as well, some of which may actually be half-remembered tales from my own college years, co-written with friends in the dormitory back in Clinton era.  Either way, I once again found myself enjoying Brilliant, getting dragged along in what is almost certainly going to boil down to a “The Craft” firefight between Amadeus and Albert, with the other kids picking sides or getting picked off, and yet I want to know how it all goes.  Bagley is working at top form here, and I personally love his artistic vision, while Bendis always works better with characters whose personalities and spech patterns he has created himself.  Brilliant #2 is a fun ride for me, worth the addition dollar or so that the creator-owned status makes it cost, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a lighter, less profane, take on the stories Mark Millar has built his Millarverse on, and that works just fine for me…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question of The Day:  Given that many of us would certainly cash in on super-powers if we got them, is the idea of the larger-than-life noble superhuman of the Silver Age a completely discredited trope?