Pilot Season 2010 Top Cow Review (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Top Cow has put out their 2010 Pilot Season books on the Comixology platform for free about a month or so after the last one of the five books came out in comic book stores. Having not seen the previous Pilot Season books, and getting some interesting reading on them in how they've varied from year to year, it was definitely interesting taking a look at what the company is trying out for 2010 to see what should be made into its own series. Or mini series depending on what can be done with it. Sometimes when you do projects like this you get a top flight of books all around that you want to see done. Sometimes you get a run of books where nothing connects at all. This season has a variety of creative teams to it and it's interesting to see that they all have a very similar feel and theme in a way. So let's take a look at what was offered and being voted on.
1. Forever #1
Written by Brad Inglesby and with artwork by Thomas Nachlik, Forever takes a look at a man named Ryan Chambers whose life is changed completely by the arrival of someone named Kane. Ryan's life isn't anything grand to begin with as he works for a company called Longevity that deals with slowing down the aging process for people that are going through life threatening illnesses. Millions of people have taken the procedure but there's something far more sinister involved as we see that people from Ryan's past that went to the same orphanage as him are dying fast. And there are claims that Longevity actually steals life. When Kane comes to reveal the truth, Ryan's life is threatened and nothing looks like it's going to go well for him from thereon out.
2. 39 Minutes #1
Written by William Harms with pencils by Jerry Lando and inks by Jay Leisten, 39 Minutes deals with a storyline that involves bank robbers that are going around Nebraska robbing small banks with ease by using a lot of advanced gear. And doing each heist in 39 minutes with no concerns about the body count as long as they achieve certain goals with each heist, essentially sending a message. While these heists go on, a special agent approaches a man in prison who actually commanded the robbers when they served together in Iraq before things went pear-shaped. As the heists play out, the government wants the condemned man to work for them in taking down his friends.
3. Crosshair #1
Written by Jeff Katz with pencils by Allan Jefferson and inks by Jordi Terragona, Crosshair plays like 39 Minutes in reverse with some obvious changes. A former exceptional special forces type soldier named Weller has spent the last ten years outside of the system but he's now being activated by having his former team members coming to his home and threatening him. Weller has prepared for just such an emergency in a very detailed way and proceeds to take them out before they hurt his family. Unfortunately, doing so has triggered his programming that he was never clued in on and now he's determined to go and kill the President of the United States. Or at least that's what the premise seems like as we see both sides of the story which shows that there is another layer of truth about the programming.
4. The Asset #1
Written by Filip Sablik with artwork by David Marquez, The Asset has a very Alias kind of feeling right from the start with a whole lot of targeted killing. Focusing on a woman named Madeline, at least that's her name at the moment, she plays the role of a skilled assassin who gets very close and dirty with her targets by using modern social technology to retrieve her profiling information. The story here is self contained, unlike just about all the other books, so we get to see her job play out from start to finish with hints at some potential subplots that would carry over from mission to mission. There's a good bit of sensuality included in this because of her up close nature to people and how she manipulates them.
5. 7 Days From Hell #1
Written by Bryan hill and Rob Levin with artwork by Phil Noto, 7 Days in Hell is a bit chaotic in its storytelling style at first but offers a fun look at the idea of “the devil made me do it.” After watching his wife get shot in front of him when he was the target, John goes to exact revenge but is himself killed in the end. On his journey to hell though, he's scooped away by the devil herself, a blonde going by the name of Mandy. She wants to use him as a tool to kill evil men in the world in order to show the big good guy up there that she can be good too and redeemed and that some day they'll be noticed and find vindication. John has only seven days to kill his target once she assigns him to it and if he doesn't, then it's off to hell for him instead. There's no lesser evil here at all as both choices are pretty bad.
The Round-up:
Each of the books hits about 22-24 pages or so and reading them all in one sitting was an interesting experience. The main theme that you come away with here is that they're all modern day tales involving guns, guns and more guns. The violence isn't overdone or anything, it's not particularly grisly and hardcore, but having it be a dominant theme across all the books doesn't paint Top Cow in a good way since it stereotypes a lot of what they offer. Of the books here, there are some good choices to be tapped but it's hard to say what form would be appropriate. The goal is to launch a new series off of it but most of them are viable in some form.
The only title I would outright dismiss is the 39 Minutes one as it doesn't feel well thought out nor drawn well. The others could all find life somewhere else with some tightening up. Most of them come across as titles that would work well as a weekly serial drama on TV, particularly The Asset and 7 Days From Hell. The latter is the only one to use something not from the real world and that gives it a bit of an edge since it opens up the possibilities a bit more and it felt the most fleshed out and the least showy in terms of trying to cover too much too quickly. The Asset has the sexpot appeal of a seductive assassin, but in comic book form it could get old very fast. Crosshair has a lot of potential, but it's one that would work best as a very specific length series or an original graphic novel with a set length from the start so it can tell a cohesive tale. Forever is in much the same boat. It's one of two stories that really had me interested in what the larger story is but it also is one that is better served by being a defined work rather than open ended.
And that's what got me the most about this Pilot Season project. None of the titles here feel like they could support a monthly title in the slightest. Forever is the only title that left me wanting to know more of the story, though Crosshair could make for a decent action series if it was started fresh without quite so much ultimate man material crammed in so quickly. The Pilot Season approach is one that I really like, and people in general like such things as evidenced by American Idol and a slew of hopefuls, but this season has very little to offer or get excited about. Almost everything would work better in some other form or not at all in the case of 39 Minutes.

Mania Grade: C+