REVIEW: Executive Assistant Iris v.3 #1

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If I were a super-rich executive and I told you that the hot model armed with swords was only there to protect me from machine gun wielding maniacs, would you believe me? If I told you that she chose to wear the skin-tight outfits that show off every curve of her perfect body, would you hold it against me? After the jump we look at a world where bringing a knife to a gun fight is not just a good idea, it’ll get you a high-paying job.

Executive-Assistant-Iris-1_CEXECUTIVE ASSISTANT IRIS v.3 #1
Writer: David Wohl

Artists: Alex Lei

Colors: Teodoro Gonzalez

Letters: Josh Reed

Editors: Vince Hernandez, Frank Mastromauro

Publisher: Aspen Comics

Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Executive Assistant Iris: Iris was a bodyguard/enforcer for a rich guy until she realized how evil he was and had to fight her way out of the organization. Then she got a new boss with the tragically unironic name “Villone”, who used mind control to make her do his bidding. With the help of other “Executive Assistants” who went to Hot Assassin U (Go Fighting Stenographers!) with her, Iris escaped Villone’s clutches. Now she works for bland rich guys but secretly answers to the CIA.

I WOULDN’T ASK HER TO PICK UP MY DRY CLEANING

In this issue, we see Iris defend her new boss from Russian thugs, check in with her CIA handler, chat with Lily (an ex-classmate at hot assassin school), and [cliffhanger reveal that I won’t spoil on principle]. It did not get me overly-excited about Iris as a character. Volume 3, issue 1 is my first exposure to the Administrative Assistant-Verse, although I went to the Aspen Comics website to read the teaser summaries for the previous two volumes to see if there was anything I needed to know before reading this. On the plus side, it doesn’t seem like there’s much required knowledge for a new reader, plot-wise. On the minus side, the summaries make the previous volumes sound a lot more interesting than this one. She had a crisis of conscience, then when she started defining herself she got mind-controlled and dragged back into the life she had left. I don’t know how well it worked out, but it sounds a lot more interesting than what I’m reading in this issue.

The book is flawed, but not irreparably flawed. It could be fixed. The central gimmick of the book is sound. The super-hot lady ninja with a messed-up past is a comic book staple and much can be, and has been, done with it. Iris, however, is a cypher. Every other character has a couple motivations to drive them. Iris comes across as an automaton. Even her internal monologue is wooden. And is there a way to make a character more Mary Sue than to give her unlimited funds, invincible super-powers, and no apparent weaknesses or downsides?

When your main character is a sexy assassin, the fight scenes are going to be a major focus. The fighting was OK, but there wasn’t enough of it and for what there was the stakes were low. The main fight in the issue is against a group of low-rent thugs (identified as such in the narration) who don’t particularly pose a challenge for Iris. They didn’t even have an interesting hook. There’s absolutely nothing memorable about that fight. This is a #1 issue. If you’re trying to capture new readers (and if not, shut down the presses and go home), you’ve got to wow them out of the gate. After the first action scene, I should be able to tell you why Iris is bad-ass but all I’ve got is, “She’s drawn that way.”

PEOPLE IN MOTION

At the risk of stating the obvious, the art is unapologetically cheesecake-tastic and to that extent, I’m going to try to take it on its own terms. More than half of the cast are ridiculously hot women with weapons. Better minds than I have picked apart the empowerment vs. exploitation argument, but if that doesn’t turn you off, the next question is: Given what it’s trying to do, does it do it well? It’s better than Rob Liefeld if only because there are usually feet. The poses are usually physically possible. The women look like they were drawn naked, then colored in non-flesh tones and seams were added in to pretend that there was some sort of cloth involved. Compared to Greg Land, the character faces look distinct and consistent, but where Land draws everyone with “screaming porno-face” whether they are hurling a car, being electrocuted or chatting over tea, Alex Lei gives everyone a default pout with lips ever-so-slightly parted. In dialog- heavy scenes, I can’t help but envision the characters as ventriloquists who have lost their dummies.

That last paragraph damns the art more than I intended. It doesn’t look terrible (that probably didn’t help) and is better than a lot of drawing done for independent comics, but it could be a lot better. My main beef is that the art doesn’t stand out enough. If you’re going to go fetishistic, fan service art, pick your own niche and go for it. With a name like “Executive Assistant” the theme should be “somewhat work-inappropriate” business suits instead of “slutty evening gowns” and spray-on spandex. There are too many comic artists who grew up on early Image comics trying to copy their idols. There’s more than enough room for the Ally McBeal/sexy librarian look. Not every comic should showcase cheesecake/pin-up art but the ones that do don’t have to all be the same.

The other failing I see in the art is in the depiction of action. Fight scenes don’t flow from panel to panel. For example, if I reverse engineer the script, one fight works out something like this: Panel 1-Five thugs, standing within a 5 meter circle of one another, are shooting at Iris. Panel 2-from 25 meters away, Iris leaps at the nearest thug. Panel 3-Iris stabs thug in the back, somehow. Other thugs disappear, only to re-appear 2 panels hence… And so on. Fight scenes don’t have to make 100% logical sense, but, like Star Trek technobabble, they have to make just enough sense that the reader’s brain fills in and/or glosses over the gaps. That’s not what happens here.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Another atomic Christmas miracle

I wanted to like this book, but it refused to give me a good reason. I give Executive Assistant Iris V3 #1 one and a half star—it’s not offensively bad and if you’re really intrigued by the art (I won’t judge you) then I won’t discourage you, but after this issue I can’t recommend it.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

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