A review of Second Chances #1 from Image Comics! No Spoilers!
If you’ve heard me talk about another indie comic line called Bliss, then you know I LOVE stories that focus on the inner workings of morality; the grey areas that everyone forgets exist beyond the “good” and the “bad”. When I read the synopsis for Second Chances, I KNEW this was a book I had to read, and when I saw the cover I knew this was art I wanted to see!
Synopsis - Second Chances Hotline - call now and get a new identity! All you need is some cash, a proper referral, and a very good reason to start over. When Leblanc, the man behind the hotline, is approached by a shady figure from his past, he's forced to accept a new client who doesn't meet any of the requirements - a client with chemically induced amnesia in desperate need of protection. Up-and-coming writer RICKY MAMMONE and artist MAX BERTOLINI (The Witcher, Nathan Never) explode onto the scene with this psychedelic, action-packed, bizarre noir that feels like John Wick punching through an existential French New Wave fever dream.
Full disclosure y’all, I opened this book and saw all the art was in black and white. I almost gave up and closed it. Black and white art is hard for me and I hate that it is. However, because the premise of this line was so cool, I kept reading and within two pages I no longer had a problem with the black and white art.
Second Chances is a tale from Images Comics that focuses on just that- second chances. Do we, as humans, ever deserve them? Who gets to decide that? Can another person get to be the judge, jury, and executioner of second chances? Why does that person get to be, if so?
Earlier I mentioned the story Bliss, which, if you haven’t read, you should check out my and my good friend Mason’s interview with writer Sean Lewis about it HERE. (As well as Mason’s fantastic Youtube channel, Comics and Crosses, here) Whereas Bliss focuses more on the question of who deserves second chances in life, Second Chances focuses on the perspective of who gets to make that decision entirely. Our main character, Leblanc, wants to use his skills to help those who have fallen ill to poor choices in the moments of life, have succumbed to vices they shouldn’t have (drugs, etc), or even just those that struggle to make good choices in life in general but have good intentions. He believes that, even though he is only human as well, he gets to make the judgment call. This is a theme that we see in another great comic line, Barbaric from Vault Comics. The idea of judgment and who gets to make the judgments and why. I love how this first issue of Second Chances sets up an obvious struggle Leblanc is going to have, which is why the hell does he get to make the judgment calls and why in the hell does he feel the constant need to make sure certain people get second chances?
Leblanc’s inner dialogue is what sells me the most on this first issue. I’m an absolute whore for great characterization and this first issue fully immerses me in the mind of Leblanc instantly! Within four pages, I’m able to completely empathize with him- maybe it’s because I also have a sort of martyr complex, but that’s neither here nor there! Leblanc is the kind of person that’s seen the worst of the world, knows everything in life is doomed, and, deep down, also truly knows there is just straight-up evil in this world- but he still can’t help himself- he has to TRY to make the world better. He has to help SOMEHOW, even if it's by lurking in the shadows and helping those who are otherwise troublesome and questionable in society. This is also a direct reflection on how Leblanc sees himself; he definitely could be the stereotypical hero character, but because he has such poor self-image and refuses to see the good in himself, he only helps those he feels he deserves to help. He doesn’t feel he deserves to help those that are the greatest good- the “great samaritans” in life. He feels he can only help those that are struggling but trying- most likely, just like he is. Can you tell I’ve read too much into his character already? I absolutely LOVE psychoanalyzing characters like this and Second Chances will have you doing exactly what I’m doing!
The heavy penciling in the art gives me such joy- it helps make this black and white art work. The shading helps make the entire world still connect, almost as if there is color there but simply muted, and the details in each and every single person’s face help one connect with Leblanc’s inner dialogue (which is the forefront of this story) with great ease. If you’re turned off by black and white art, please still give this book a shot. This art will most likely work for you incredibly well, especially if you’re heavy on great characterization like I am. The art helps personify each character’s movements and emotions and it’s not often you find an artist that can do that without any color. HUGE props to Max Bertolini for this achievement- you sold me!
At the end of the day, Second Chances only needs you to give it one chance before you’re adding it to your pull list. With great art that puts a noir world in a stunning spotlight and some of the best characterization I’ve seen since reading any Kelly Thompson or Tom Taylor story, this is the book you didn’t know you needed!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Bi gives this: