Comic books, especially superhero fans, might be used to the great Marvel/DC rivalry, but once you’ve read an issue of Hellboy or Ninja Turtles, the value of an independent writer really starts to shine through. Indie comics have always had that secret knowledge appeal, though, as if only those who absolutely read everything at the brick-and-mortar encounter them. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to take on a multiverse. However, writer Eric July hopes to use the Internet’s powers of communication to launch the new “Rippaverse” starting with Isom, the first book in the verse.
Avery Silman, a.k.a Isom’s superpowers will sound familiar: super strength and superhuman endurance. He cannot fly, but others can. How and where these powers come from is a conversation for another day, I guess, because it’s irrelevant to the plot here, except that a limited number of people have them. Supers in this version are called Excepts. As a result, Isom has a lot of experience brawling with people similar to himself, though he’s completely taken aback by the presence of Yaira, a superstrong lady who can fly. However, above all, he’s against a mysterious trio of green-clad police types called Alphacore, who have superpowers. Using people with powers for muscle appears to be something of a staple in the economy of Isom’s world, shown especially by his main antagonist, a bouncer at a club that’s almost definitely involved in human trafficking.
Isom sets out to find a family friend working there against her will. Isom’s mission is mostly to make sure she’s okay. Still, eventually, he finds Jasmine working at a club owned by high school friend Darren, who has become a gangster who employs a small army of regular thugs and at least one super thug, Darren’s bouncer, Santwan. Santwan and the Alphacore cops seem to be employed solely for their powers and are proud of it. Santwan appears to know Isom from somewhere else based on their dialogue which reminds me of nothing so much as the classic Wolverine-Sabretooth rivalry. However, little of either’s backstory is revealed in this comic.
The story begins in media res, eager to present to a world where Excepts can be the difference in a fistfight or an arrest, or a public policy. Most Excepts seem to be public individuals in the culture of the city of New Florespark – to the point where there’s even an industry around building their suits, just like in The Incredibles. It’s something of a relief not to watch the wheel be completely reinvented, and while there’s a sense where I keep wondering if I’m missing something, that’s basically like reading any recent X-Men issues. Really, that difficulty is as old as the medium.
So, thrown into that mix, we see yet another outsider with a moral code. Much like Isom’s superpowers, the plot reuses some standard stranger-comes-to-town material, but it’s against that backdrop of the Except economy. Isom is one individual Except, up against many, to the point where they’re something of a commodity. The ending to the first issue, when Isom finally returns to the shop where he last bought his costume, questions how long Isom will keep his independence in issue two.
Overall, the Rippaverse has gotten off to a compelling, back-to-basics start, but the biggest threat to its ambitions for a greater universe would be the scope itself. The writing eschews exposition but risks confusion. Above all, the challenge stated on their website, “why not us?” is only going to be answered by awesome storytelling going forward.
Isom #1 is available now at https://rippaverse.com/.
Three stars out of five.