You will likely remember Legendary Pictures, the production company founded by Thomas Tull that has worked closely with Warner Bros. to bring us films like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, 300, Watchmen, The Hangover, Where The Wild Things Are, and so on. They've got a pretty good pedigree as far as raising the bar for the relationship between comic books and film. They very much respect the source material – so much so that they've actually started Legendary Comics, to create some of their own. We've heard a lot about how comic book companies trying to open their own film wings, such as Marvel Studios, and it certainly seems like Legendary provides that for DC Comics properties. However, having a movie studio move directly into making comics seems somewhat fresh. It might be the answer to complaints about Hollywood strip-mining and exploiting books, graphic novels, old TV shows and anything else they can get the rights to. Instead, Legendary is trying their hands at creating their own source material.
To that end, Tull has brought on Matt Wagner (Mage, Grendel) to help write and refine his concept for The Tower Chronicles, the story of a mysterious man named John Tower. He's a highly-skilled investigator of paranormal phenomena, and he charges an exorbitant fee because he not only discovers the truth of any given infestation, but he also kicks its ass and ends the trouble they cause. GeistHawk is the first of four graphic novels that will comprise The Tower Chronicles, and it's also the name of the website through which Tower filters his assignments, with the help of his equally mysterious lawyer named Romulus. He is initially hired by a Russian mob to prove the death of a jerk named Kessler who betrayed them, and comes to learn that Kessler actually invented a process through which he could actually become a living ghost. However, Tower finds a way to kill him anyway, as his task is to acquire proof that he's dead. The next chapter proceeds to involve skeptical FBI agent Alicia Hardwicke, whose attempts to track a serial killer have led her to the desperate measure of trying to get Tower's aid on a federal budget that can't afford his asking price. She works around Romulus and manages to hook Tower's interest, and it leads her into a mystical world she simply cannot comprehend.
I will confess that I haven't read the books which have made Wagner famous, but he did write one book I'm particularly fond of – the 1999 revival of Doctor Mid-Nite, introducing us to Dr. Pieter Cross, who has since become my favorite member of the Justice Society, and I largely attribute that to Wagner's take. So I went into this predisposed to like it. However, I must admit that Legendary's first foray into comics makes for a slightly bumpy start, although certainly not without potential – and it will surely make for a pretty cool movie down the line.
There's a distinctly 1990s feel to John Tower, with his ninja weapons and his hooded brooding and his borderline-mullety hair and his scarred eye. I was often reminded of Nomad while reading this book. Adding to that somewhat dated sensibility is Hardwicke, who seems very much an analogue of Dana Scully of The X-Files, albeit not nearly as muted and monotone. She's more of a firecracker, although her internal monologue about disbelieving everything about the paranormal that the man whose help she sought tells her doesn't really ring true. Her adherence to conventional thinking after witnessing firsthand a fight between beasts of legend also makes her seem a bit too foolish.
Then there's "GeistHawk." Unfortunately, any combination of "hawk," "blood," "night" or "strike" and any derivative thereof has been well and truly tarnished by the excesses of 90s comics, and it's hard to roll with such things in this day and age. The cooless of "geist" almost offsets the triteness of "hawk," but not quite enough for my tastes. Your mileage may vary.
All that aside, though, the core concept is sound, and some of the ideas presented are fairly cool. Kessler's ghost-making process was kind of fascinating, and he himself was a striking enough character that I'm sad to say he was dispatched too quickly. The revelation of the true identity of the "Piranha Killer" is pretty creepy, too, and makes for an interesting battle. The art from 2000 A.D. vet Simon Bisley is very striking, to say the least, and the notable work of inker Rodney Ramos and colorist Ryan Brown have a lot to do with that, too. Some panels just jump off the page with an almost photorealistic look mixed with a painted style. However, some of the proportions seemed off here and there, some faces are occasionally iffy, and I'm not sure why his women seem to go so heavy on the eye shadow, but overall, it's good work..
Overall, The Tower Chronicles: GeistHawk has some issues, but they're mostly aesthetic and thus subject to personal preference. The set-up is certainly ripe for generating cool ideas, but the storytelling details could use a bit of polishing. Somewhere between comic books and movies lies television, and the pilot episode of any TV series generally has some kinks to work out. So you look for whether or not the basics are there to hold your interest, and the story of John Tower could make for a solid foundation, if supernatural adventure is your thing.