A Man Called Kev #1 (DC Comics/Wildstorm)

Sure, the trademarks are there, but Garth Ennis' latest left hook about an ex-British-ops agent on the run seems to be missing some of its wallop.

DC Comics/Wildstorm; 32 pgs FC; $2.99
(W: Garth Ennis; A: Carlos Ezquerra)

Sure, the trademarks are there: crude language, gory murders, and a heavy dose of sexual irony. But famed Preacher writer Garth Ennis' latest left hook about an ex-British-ops agent on the run seems to be missing some of its wallop. The Boys certainly has it, Preacher as well (practically spilling out of the pages). Unfortunately, with the Authority spin-off A Man Called Kev, it looks like Mr. Ennis may have spread himself a bit thin.

The cover to A Man Called Kev #1 by Glenn FabryThe story shunts off with a powerful death scene, the murder of protagonist Kevin Hawkins' fellow mate Tony in West Belfast. Not only does the scene reveal the horrors of Northern Ireland's conflict, but it also showcases Ennis's ability to depict his protagonist at the height of his naivety.

Flashing forward nineteen years, readers find Kev buried under a murderous past and blackmailed over certain sexual indiscretions, all of which lead to his inevitable departure from Britain. More time-play from Kev's buddy Bob allows Ennis to take several below-the-belt jabs at the publishing industry, topping the scenes off with a trashy uppercut that involves a chandelier, an apishly drunk Bob, and a publisher that winds up swallowing more than expensive champagne.

Pacing, however, slows dramatically around the horse track scene, wherein both Bob and Kevin all-but-unexpectedly lose out on their Four Leaf Clover, and Kevin has to downgrade his departure ticket to economy. The shootout scene with Bob offers Ennis a chance to salvage readers' boredom, but ultimately, that too falls flat. Not that readers won't appreciate a Rambo-like massacre or the quiet grace of a well-placed ninja, but there's got to be more than that to make the scene work, and this time, there wasn't.

Those who have read enough Ennis in the past will notice his fondness for group formation stories, perhaps because of the extra wiggle room it allows him to figure out where he's going. Only, with A Man Called Kev, it's not really a question of where, but whether the readers will want to make the trip at all. Ennis makes no extravagant claims with this comic, no plans to outdo himself as with The Boys. Perhaps he's trying to tell his readers something. Well, the readers are listening, Mr. Ennis, a bit discouraged, but still willing to give it a go. K.O.'s are hard to come by, and in this instance, you've got some more training to do.

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