Writers: Donny Cates
Art: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Sonia Oback
Letters: John J. Hill
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 21st, 2022
Vanish #1 weaves a tale of magic, superheroes, and a decaying city. It’s a dark urban fantasy where the heroes and villains aren’t who you think. The story’s main character is Oliver Harrison, also known as “The Chosen One”, who realizes his destiny in this first issue. Imagine a much darker version of Harry Potter who grows up to be The Punisher, and that will give you an inkling of the story that’s inside.
Vanish #1 started well, but the book ends up suffering from a multitude of ideas we’ve seen before (and some of them were done better). At the core of the book is a character who wants to get revenge for something horrendous that was done to someone close to him when he was a kid. It’s an age-old trope of stories in every genre, from Westerns to Science Fiction.
I won’t give away the twists that are in the book. Suffice it to say that what’s set up by the end of this issue is a situation similar to “The Boys”. And for anyone who’s a fan of that comic or show, you know it gets bloody and brutal, and this book doesn’t shy from that.
The most fascinating aspect of the story is its location, a misty city called Everkeep, which is segregated from “the real world”, and where magic and magical beasts exist. Everkeep looks like any other big city, with towering skyscrapers and slums, but dragons fly overhead and other magical beasts wander the city. I’d love to see more of this city and how it functions. How do they keep the dragons from toppling the skyscrapers?
This first issue fully sets up the premise of the series, including an appearance by Battle Rocket, a superhero and one of the protectors of the city, who has a look and personality similar to Damian Wayne’s. Yep, he’s pretty obnoxious.
Oliver, the main character, seems very one-dimensional. We get his backstory here (including why he’s seeking revenge), but it still doesn’t make him feel like a well-rounded character. He’s your typical hard-edged and gruff borderline psychotic with trauma issues. Slap a shirt with a big skull on it and he could be The Punisher.
On the plus side, Oliver has magic abilities that could be interesting to explore in the future. Also, he’s in a relationship with a woman who went to the same magic school he did, and the relationship seems to be growing cold. I assume over the next few issues, we’ll get to see more of the two and how they became close.
Ryan Stegman and Sonia Oback’s art on Vanish #1 fits this urban fantasy tale, with its subdued colors and gritty pencils. The city of Everkeep is darkly beautiful, especially in one splash page where we see the city skyline, shrouded in a dense fog of mist, with magical beasts flying over it and reddish sunlight peeking through the mist. This splash comes early in the book, and it whets your appetite to want to see more of it. The character designs are good, especially for the character Vanish (who we see in Oliver’s flashback). He’s drawn as a terrifying demonic entity, with huge spider-like appendages and purple power pulsating from his eyes and hands.
Vanish #1 kicks off the series with an uninteresting main character on a slightly more interesting vendetta. The location of the story is far more fascinating than the characters themselves, but hopefully over the next few issues, after we see more of Oliver’s life, he’ll become a character we can relate to and root for.