The Leading Man (Oni Press)

leadingheaderWhat if the Brangelinas of the world weren't just richer and better looking than you, but also secret government superspies? That's the question B. Clay Moore and Jeremy Haun try to answer in their latest graphic novel.

 

 

144 pgs. FC; $14.95

(W: B Clay Moore, A: Jeremy Haun)

 

In the world of The Leading Man, the A-list action stars on the silver screen are really working behind the scenes for super-secret government organization The Agency. Nick Walker and his beautiful co-star Alison Frost are both members of The Agency, and are all that stand between the world and the terrorist organization Code Black. When the agents discover a Code Black training facility in an abandoned lighthouse, they must risk their lives to beat the bad guys.

 

Writer B. Clay Moore (Hawaiian Dick) clearly intended for this book to be an over-the-top and possibly even slightly campy adventure story. Unfortunately, the book doesn't find its footing until somewhere in the third of five issues, at which point it is too late to change the fact that the characters are so underdeveloped, readers probably won't care what happens to them.

 

The cover to The Leading Man by Jeremy Haun. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Protagonist Nick Walker seems like nothing more than a cocksure pretty boy whom some readers will find it difficult to root for. The female characters are largely disposable and often annoying. Worst of all is the story's villain, complete with disfiguring scar across his eye, who trains suspiciously attractive and sometimes scantily clad terrorists for Code Black. Even when his motives are helpfully spelled out, he is not fleshed out enough for readers to truly appreciate his inevitable downfall.

 

The story jumps back and forth from what's happening with Nick and Alison to their assistants back on the movie set, monitoring the pair's progress. Conspicuous by its absence in the scenes with the assistants is a sense of urgency to help the secret agents escape mortal peril. Readers never see these characters looking desperate or doing much but drinking coffee. Though Nick's assistant Travis is one of the better written characters in The Leading Man, these breaks in the action do little more than slow the plot and draw attention from the important parts of the story.

 

Jeremy Haun's art for the book is uneven in places, but fleshes out the characters better than Moore's dialogue. Haun's faces are his strong point; each character has distinctive features and expressions. The costumes are also quite well done, particularly Nick's spy gear. However, Haun struggles with the action scenes, which don't flow very well. He also seems to rely heavily on making minor changes to re-used panels, and too often omits background scenery in favor of a color fill.

 

Overall, The Leading Man feels amateurish and unfocused. The story has a great deal of potential, but does not live up to it in this volume. Where it should have been quick-paced and funny, the plot drags and falls flat. It is essentially as shallow and forgettable as those action movies it pokes fun at. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

 

Click here to read the entire first issue of The Leading Man, courtesy of Oni Press! (.cbr image viewer required, click here for more information)

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