Eponymous is a modern-day superhero story from the monthly digital anthology VS Comics, written by Mike Garley, with art by Martin Simmonds, and lettered by Mike Stock. The story takes place in a time when super-powered individuals no longer permeate the population, though there are definite hints that they used to, and that they became something of a problem. So, when the superhero Eponymous comes onto the scene, we know it is a big deal, though it is not exactly clear why. There is a secret organization that believes Eponymous may be responsible for a horrible tragedy in the future and is determined to take her down at any cost, including sacrificing the life of Lucy, a young girl who has nightmares of horrible catastrophes that eventually come true.
The relationship between Eponymous and Lucy is nice, as it mirrors a mother-daughter relationship that we feel Lucy may have never had, and the sisterly relationship that we find out Eponymous once had, and misses. Beyond that, not much is known about Eponymous, her story, and motivations remaining mostly an enigma to us. There are some interesting tidbits revealed here and there about her past and about the world this story takes place in, and this book collects only the first six issues of the comic, so things may be fleshed out more and more revelations brought to light in later issues.
As for these first issues, there is a certain vagueness that comes across in the overarching storytelling. The characters are sure of themselves and the story moves forward, but I was not always certain what I was reading, or why something was happening. Garley creates an interesting air of mystery around the story and around its title character, but information is sometimes withheld to the detriment of the story, and it can make understanding the characters’ actions difficult, or confusing. There are many interesting elements that he does bring into the story though, and what we are told draws us in, and we want to know more. This is a big story told mostly through small, intimate moments between characters, and sometimes Garley nails the dialogue, propelling the story forward, and other times the characters leave the reader in the dark, and this is fine, unless it is done too often, because then the writer runs the risk of taking the reader out of the story. When we have no idea what the characters are talking about, it can make it hard for us to care about them and their situations. Eponymous runs this risk here and there, mostly when dealing with the secret organization, though Lucy and Eponymous help to balance this out by maintaining an emotional connection to the reader throughout most of the book.
Simmonds’ art is detailed and realistic, and his clean, natural look especially brings the characters’ faces to life. Their faces and bodies are done in almost a photo-realistic style, and this style is matched by their surroundings and larger backgrounds. There are a handful of splash pages and double-page spreads where Simmonds just knocks it out of the park and helps us to grasp the size and scope of the story. At times, the art seems to imply the action more than show it, and the characters sometimes looked static, like finely-drawn individual pieces of art rather than active participants in the story. That being said, there are still some great action set pieces in this book, and the quality of the art shines through in those visceral scenes.
My absolute favorite part of the whole book involved a long-form flashback that told a riveting tale of man-made superheroes during World War II. While the intrinsic connection to the present story remained unknown, I reveled in the creativity of that story and wanted to see more of it, and I believe in later issues I will. This story had its own unique art style and color palette, and it truly felt and looked like a story from a different era. The flashback was exciting and straightforward, and I wanted some of that fun and exuberance to filter into the present story, which, at times, was very dour and heavy. Nonetheless, it offered a welcome and unexpected juxtaposition of the main narrative, and future flashbacks may hold secrets as to Eponymous’ past or how to defeat her.
Overall, Eponymous is an intriguing tale about the emergence of a mysterious superhero and the people who believe she is a risk to the world and are tasked with stopping her. We are caught in the middle, seeing the story from both the secret organization’s point of view, and from Lucy and Eponymous’ point of view. This a smart move on Garley’s part, because we are not sure who to trust, so there is a constant level of suspense running through the book. A little less mystery might be a good thing, though, if only to give the story and characters more resonance and make the action easier to follow. I would be interested to see how the rest of the Eponymous story plays out, because Garley and Simmonds have laid the groundwork for a truly engaging story, and Eponymous is a hero I want to see succeed . . . at least I think I do.