Aspen Comics has a long run of successful titles. From their flagship Fathom, the series the company derives its name from, after the main character Aspen Matthews, to Soulfire, which has recently put in the talented hands of Mike DeBalfo. Based on this history, their announcement of a new series, Executive Assistant: Assassins, was met with a lot of fan appeal. Not to mention the beautiful promotional cover art from talented artists like Joe Benitez and Eduardo Francisco. However, after reading the introductory issue, I’m not quite sure it lives up to the hype.
The premise behind Executive Assistant: Assassins is based on an elite academy based inXinjiang, China which grooms young girls to be, you guessed it, assassins. Each of the young girls joining the academy is forced to shed their former lives and is christened with a new identity, in the form of names of flowers. The issue focuses on a former student of the academy, Lily, who has fallen from grace and lives as a drug-addicted stripper in the seedier part of Japan. Lily gets fired from her job after an altercation with the clubs patrons, and as she makes her way back home is attacked and kidnapped by a group of dapperly dressed men.
Writer Vince Hernandez does a nice job of setting up the overall narrative of the series. Executive Assistant: Assassins is an on-going series based on a character created by Dave Wohl and Michael Turner called Executive Assistant Iris, so Hernandez is playing in someone else’s sandbox. But he sets the stage nicely for readers that are not familiar with the previous story. Hernandez has given Lily a rich history and manages to sprinkle in some of the more intimate details of her life into the first issue, albeit a little too liberally. It takes only a few pages before we learn that she killed her old boss to get out from under his thumbnail, and Hernandez hints of a harsh fall from grace during her time at the academy, a history that will be interesting to see if it unfolds during the series.
Jordan Gunderson’s pencils show that the man has some talent, but the extent of which are never reached. His figures are well proportioned and look nice on the page. However, his movement leaves much to be desired. Characters come off as stiff and stagnant, their movements lacking the fluidity that could be expressed by other artists. I understand that, at times, the nature of comics makes illustrating movement difficult, however, it can be done. Though Gunderson does show some impressive skills, he still has far to go.
Executive Assistant Assassins has a strong beginning that promises a good story by the end. Though far from perfect, the creators have managed to tie together an enjoyable read, one that, at the beginning, looks to introduce a full cast of interesting characters. The only downfall of the series is that Aspen is promoting the series as a simplistic T-n-A comic, given the lasciviously dressed women on the covers. I’m hoping the creators decide to stray from that method of advertising and instead focus on the other strengths of the series.