Luke Owen reviews Reality Check #1 from Image Comics…
A struggling artist, Willard Penn, scores an unlikely hit with his new comic. The story centers on a hero more concerned with his libido than serving justice. After an unexpected sell out, Willard can’t recall anything about his story. That night the book’s hero shows up outside Willard’s window refusing to return to the comic until he finds true love. Exasperated, Willard is forced to help the lovesick hero meet the perfect woman. But he’ll need to hurry because the book’s villain, a homicidal maniac, has entered his world as well.
When the press about a comic describes it as “meta”, there is always a level of worry when opening it up to read it. The problem with media in any form that is trying to be “meta” or “self-aware” is that they often think they’re smarter than they actually are. Luckily, Glen Brunswick’s Reality Check #1 is a really fun read that isn’t too self-referential, never gets too big for its boots and builds a good amount of story.
To aid any media that attempts “meta”, the writers or creators need to build a hero that a reader/audience member can get behind. In the case of Reality Check, we’re given struggling comic book artist and nerd Willard Penn – no doubt Brunswick’s attempts to appeal to his ‘target market’. He’s a likeable enough character with a decent backstory and he’s a good avatar for the reader. No doubt many people who read Reality Check will be a wannabe comic book artist themselves and certain elements of this story should hit home. With a character that is as likeable and naive as Willard, Reality Check‘s post-modern dialogue doesn’t seem so heavy handed and his demeanour does draw you in to find out more about him, which is explored in thought boxes – and a backstory that seems a little out of place.
Reality Check is a funny and post-modern comic, however there is a portion in the middle dealing with Willard’s brother that feels incredibly out-of-place. It’s beautifully written and it explains a lot about the character with some superb artwork from Viktor Bogdonavic who captures these moments perfectly, but that doesn’t stop it from unbalancing the light-hearted nature of the book. It goes from wacky hijinks to a super-serious story about relationships, responsibility and death and it just feels like it was written for a different story.
It’s really hard not to recommend Reality Check #1 as it’s a great comic and has a final page tease that should lead into a interesting story within a story within a story plot line that is bound to grip its readers. Brunswick may not have got the balance right at all times, but his heart is in the right place and there is a clear love for this story that shines through each page.