Edison Rex is a criminal genius who has been fighting his arch-nemesis, the superhero Valiant, for decades. But, when Valiant is finally taken out of the picture, Edison realizes he must fill the void and become Earth’s new hero. So, along with his second-in-command, M’Alizz, he builds a team to do just that, though it turns out the public isn’t quite ready to trust Edison’s new leaf, much to his annoyance. I feel if I talk much more about the actual details of the story and the characters, I will be robbing you of the joy I experienced as Edison’s adventures unfolded before me without any insight into what was happening until it was happening, and I feel that is the most rewarding way to read this book. Just go into it blindly, and be ready for laughs, action, mysterious pasts, high-tech sci-fi, and a cast of insanely imaginative characters. And then, share it with your friends, or rather, tell them to go out and buy it themselves. You won’t be able to stop yourself from telling people about Edison Rex. It is simply that good, clever, and that much pure, unadulterated fun.
This review may seem a bit colloquial, but that is because there is a simplicity and earnestness in Edison Rex that just makes me smile, and oftentimes laugh outright. Roberson and his collaborators merge childhood nostalgia with smart adult sensibilities and themes, and it all comes through in a relaxed, yet still complex, story with multi-layered characters. Before you know it, you find yourself sucked into Edison’s world, and you never want to leave. While there is a great deal of levity and humor in Edison Rex, there is also a serious side to it all. Edison has a mysterious troubled past that we catch glimpses of here and there, showing us aspects that led to him becoming a supervillain. Also, there are repercussions for the choices that Edison makes, be they as a criminal genius or reformed criminal genius, and he finds he can’t escape his past as easily as he had thought, and the public won’t let him either.
Throughout the book, Edison’s reactions are priceless. They are one of my favorite things about Culver’s art, and about the book as a whole. There are the humorous reactions that come out of surprise or aggravation, which happen quite often. Other times, Edison will get lost in a memory, which we will see in flashback, and when he is pulled out of it, he has this kind of stunned, introspective look on his face. He has the kind of past that creeps up and springs itself on you when you least expect it. Edison’s face and, and especially his eyes are so expressive, you feel like you can see into his soul through them, which provides a wonderful level of transparency for a man who is trying his darnedest to do the right thing, but encountering obstacles every step along the way. We can see Edison’s true character through his eyes, which is then mirrored in his actions. I also love the characters that populate this vast and ever-growing world. Some of them are hysterical while others are serious to a fault, but all of them are fully realized and wonderfully unique.
Part of what makes Edison Rex such a rewarding book, which Kurt Busiek points out in his introduction, is that you can see inspiration from all different genres scattered throughout the story, and yet Roberson and Culver use those inspirations to create their own distinct world, making Edison Rex feel both lovingly familiar and totally new all at the same time. That is why I can say with certainty, if you’re a fan of the wild worlds of Roberson and Mike Allred’s Vertigo title iZombie, Allred’s Madman universe, The Tick, The Venture Bros., or pulp stories in general (and honestly even if you are not), then you will love Edison Rex. And, so will your friends. And, if they don’t, then you’ll probably just have to destroy them.