The release of one of the most anticipated comics of the year is finally upon us. That’s right, The Victories #1, written and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming and published by Dark Horse Comics, comes out this week. The Victories ushers in a bold new creative period for Mr. Oeming, in which he decided to start channeling his own anxiety and personal issues through his work as a means of creative therapy. Thanks to Dark Horse I had the chance to read the first issue of this new miniseries months ago, and have eagerly been awaiting The Victories debut and the opportunity to finally talk about this exciting new title.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, The Victories takes place in a city rife with corrupt cops and politicians, inhabited by costumed criminals, vigilantes, and superheroes. The city is at a crossroads, teetering between redemption and a complete fall into corruption and disgrace–as is the lone hero who looks down on the streets from a rooftop. It will soon be revealed that this hero is Faustus, a member of the superhero group “The Victories.” Given the city’s slide into decay and crime, we eventually learn that its citizens seem very divided in their opinion of these heroes. Michael Oeming does a nice job of laying the foundation of this world in the first three pages. I wanted to include more art in this review, but most panels actually advance the story and could contain spoilers. The brisk pacing makes this issue a real page-turner. The tone of the narration is decidedly dark. A rat lies in a pool of blood on the very first page. I couldn’t help but to look at this image and think about another comic that Mr. Oeming illustrated, The Mice Templar, coming its inevitable conclusion.
Jump to a couple taking a carriage ride through a park at night. In a nice little tip of the hat to one of Mr. Oeming’s good friends and fellow comic creator (Brandon Jerwa), I notice this couple mentions a family named “Jerwa” in their dialogue. Here is where the action picks up, as the carriage is attacked by a dog-faced villain named “the Jackal.” I absolutely love the character design of the Jackal! With his vicious canine face, profane tattoo, and spiked codpiece, the Jackal really steals the page. Speaking of the pages, the layouts here are what fans have come to expect from Oeming’s awesome artwork: big panels, splash-pages, exciting and non-traditional layouts—stylish art that artists will definitely appreciate. It seems the people in the carriage are a judge and his wife. The Jackal has deemed the judge’s conduct corrupt, and has come to enact his vengeance. Enter Faustus, who mixes it up with the Jackal while trading snarky verbal jabs. It seems the Jackal thinks Faustus is fighting for the wrong side. Things might not be as clear cut “good versus evil” as is traditional for a superhero story. I won’t spoil what happens, but the entire exchange is visually pleasing, and the dialogue pokes fun at superhero cliches while celebrating them at the same time.
Later when the cowl comes off, we see that Faustus is not as confident as he initially appears. He is conflicted, full of self-doubt, and vulnerable. This is where the more personal elements of Michael Oeming’s writing start to appear, and for me, this is where Faustus starts to take on an unexpected depth of character. Personally, (with a few exceptions) I have started reading fewer and fewer superhero comics in the last few years. I don’t want to read anymore cliche stories about perfect super-beings. I want to read well-written characters with flaws. I want to see what goes on in their minds. What motivates them? What are their fears? What makes them tick? This is what it looks like Michael Oeming is going to deliver here in The Victories, along with the superhero elements we all know and love. Mr. Oeming has, of course, written many comics. But with this new work, and writing from the heart, he really appears to have found his voice as a writer. He has also written a story called Wild Rover that is currently appearing in Dark Horse Presents, and touches on some of these same elements in even a more raw manner. Be sure to check it out. If you look closely you will see references to Wild Rover here in The Victories. Mr. Oeming is writing these emotions in a way that just can’t be emulated by people who haven’t experienced them firsthand. On one page, Faustus scrawls “WHY AM I LIKE THIS?” over and over until it becomes illegible. Even though this is one of my favorite pages, the background art here nearly gets lost (almost too much so in this instance) with such a powerful emotion screaming in the foreground. Whether or not you have ever experienced anxiety or an existential crisis common to the human condition, you can’t help but really feel this emotion. There is lots of room for this story to branch out, and I can’t even begin to predict where it might go next—but I will definitely be reading.
If this first issue of The Victories is what we can expect from the series, I can’t wait to read more. Mr. Oeming has repeatedly praised Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie for helping him to polish this story, and the results so far are excellent. I would not hesitate to recommend The Victories #1 as a “pick of the week.” This first miniseries is set for five issues and will focus on Faustus. However, in recent interviews and convention panels Mr. Oeming has spoken about the possibility of doing future installments of The Victories that focus on other characters—provided this first series is well received. Are you tired of the same old superhero comics? Try something new with some real depth. Support a creator-owned title. Check out The Victories #1!