An escaped slave becomes the emissary of an ancient god, gaining the power that may one day set his people free. That's the basic story of Genecy #1, an attempt to tap into the sense of wonder elicited by such works as Star Wars, Superman the Movie and Jim Starlin's Thanos stories.
Certainly there are strong echoes of Seventies Marvel in this issue, with protagonist Kaizaxx's encounter with cosmic giant Raknirod reminding me especially of Dr Strange's meeting with Sise-Neg. Think grandiloquent narration, bombastic panels and big script. The deal agreed by Kaizaxx and Raknirod also evokes Norrin Rad and Galactus, there's a whiff of Billy Batson and the wizard Shazam, while the slavery business can't help but bring Moses to mind.
But where Moses led his people to freedom, Kaizaxx is the sole survivor of his prison break, giving him the anger and determination to survive the attack of a demonic horde. It's this grit - along with a key of power he's handed by the jailbreak's mysterious organiser - that attracts Raknirod's attention, positioning him to take on his people's oppressors, the Grunnodians, in future issues.
This is a confident, good-looking debut, with powerful illustrations by Eddy Barrows. The look is softer than his DC work, but no less engaging. And the colours by Tim Ogul and Oren Kramer really pop.
I like the enthusiasm of Gerald Cooper's script, the fact that he immerses us in the story without any build-up; we join Kaizaxx as the prisoners break free and the tale charges forward, doling out gobbets of information here and there. I'm less keen on the heavy use of narrative boxes, especially in the second chapter, making Genecy read more like an illustrated novel than a comic book.
And cards on the table, I'm no fan of barbarians. The only Conan run I ever enjoyed was that written by JM DeMatteis in the Eighties, because it didn't read like Conan. Genecy - as Kaizaxx is renamed - looks to be about a barbarian in space, on a defined quest. I'm no fan of quests either. It's actually a tribute to this comic that I was engaged at all.
You could read this script and see it as tapping into all kinds of classical stories and their modern updates, but to me that means a feeling of over-familiarity. Down the line, I'm sure there'll be fresh twists and turns, but right now Genecy feels just too derivative to me. Being transparent with your influences is commendable, but it doesn't make them any fresher.
So I'm forced to fall back on the 'if this is the kind of thing you like, you may well like this' line, which isn't ideal. But if barbarians and/or cosmic is your thing, give this title from InVision Comics a try. It has ambition, it has heart and you may love it.