Writer: Chris Charlton
Artist: Rowel Roque
Review: Arthur Black
Every fanboy at some point in their life has wished for some kind of super power to make their life better. Would a super power really make a person’s life better? The answer is yes AND no. The power would be handy to do extraordinary tasks or have fun, but the drawbacks could be severe. There would also be the unwanted attention. If Lindsay Lohan can get all of the attention she does for being a celebrity having fun, could you just imagine the attention you could get as a superhero having fun. Chris Charlton’s tale of Alex Gray takes a unique angle on an average Joe being boosted to an extraordinary hero in his series, Binary Gray.
Binary Gray is a tale of an ordinary IT employee with an extemely annoying job, whose life is chopped in a blender and thrown against the wall after an accident at work. The series starts with a glimpse at Alex’s past where we find his father was killed in an accident resulting from a fight between a super hero, The Cross, and a villain, Scaldron. This event carries a lot of pain and guilt for the 32 year old man. At work Alex is electrocuted by an exposed wire in the server room at work, and after a rush to the hospital and unconsciousness, he awakens to find that electronics are whispering “hello Alex” to him. Not only that, he can communicate with electronics instantly with a simple touch.
The first four books of the series are a great build up for the explosiveness of the fifth. Alex Gray begins to explore his powers as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding his father’s death and determine the whereabouts of The Cross and Scaldron. As his powers draw a huge amount of information to him, he finds himself drawing an equal amount of attention and trouble as well. A former branch of the CIA, known as the Agency, is alerted to Alex when he accesses top secret files for a Project Balthazar, in which people are being used in heinous experiments.
Alex Gray is a captivating character because he is real. Before his accident, he is a mediocre person with a lot of the same quirks and interests we all have. His job is boring and redundant. Even the woman he wants to ask out feels out of reach for him even though she has shown interest. Granted this does not sound gripping until you flip his reality around and slap him really hard with it. This is exactly what happens to him when he gets his power. Suddenly his job is fun and possibilities seem open. Unfortunately for him, the fun does not last long.
As a comic book junkie, super heroes like Superman and Thor really do not appeal to me. This is mainly due to their invulnerability. They have little risk in being heroes, even though they are driven to doing good deeds for the world. The excitement of a vulnerable person with a unique ability trying to good deeds and screwing up constantly is where my interests lie. Alex Gray is definitely this kind of hero. Being able to communicate with electronics and instantly access networks has unlimited possibilities in the city, but how does this work in the middle of a field or hanging on the side of a mountain.
Binary Gray #5 is the explosion of action after the four issue starting story arc. Chris Charlton finally fully lifts the veil on Virtue, a small super hero group, and shows us all of the members. Since Marvel has a run on many of the great original superhero ideas, it can be hard to find original ideas. Charlton does well in creating some fresh-feeling heroes. His supervillain, Sleet, who is debuted in Binary Gray #5, is absolutely fantastic.
Rowel Roque has done the drawing and ink work for all five issues. His style is simple but consistent. You can tell Rowel cares about the characters very much, because in most panels, he does a great job on their image and keeps his lines clean. None of the work seems rushed. What impresses me most of Roque’s work is his attention to the characters pose in the panels. Many artists will exaggerate a limb in some way to fit the scene or “make it work”, but Rowel does not seem to do this. That is impressive.
The covers for the series are done by David Hollenbach, an artist and illustrator contracted by Assailant Comics for the covers. At first glance, Mr. Hollenbach’s work does not look as polished as some of the mainstream titles, but to appreciate his artistry, you need to actually look at it from a different perspective. His style is very deliberate, making each book stylistically unique. The cover of Binary Gray #4 is my favorite, with the crisp lines of the dash board and the glass against the blending of the scene. Check out his gallery at davidhollenbach.com to get a good feel for his work.
It was a great pleasure to find Binary Gray last month at KokomoCon. This series has some great potential with Alex Gray’s vulnerability and unique power. The comic books are available in digital and hard copy from assailantcomics.com. Also, be sure to check out my interview with writer Chris Charlton here: http://the-hammond-comics-blog.blogspot.com/2013/11/seven-questions-with-chris-charlton.html.