ART-OPS-1-Cover-Logo-cb415.0By Molly Jane Kremer. A slew of all-new Vertigo comics are on their way, exciting and vibrant new titles scheduled to debut once a week throughout the next few months. The imprint that once upon a time brought us Sandman100 Bullets, and Y: The Last Man is attempting to rebuild another roster of stellar books after trimming down to a fraction of their former release output. (The last two weeks have seen compelling releases like Twilight Children and Clean Room—both ridiculously readable.) And while Vertigo is going for broke to ignite a renaissance of sorts, this week’s offering of Art Ops #1 – funnily enough, with a universally-known renaissance painting on the cover – is the weakest of the new releases so far, despite gorgeous art on its interiors.

For a comic like Art Ops, a piece of art that paradoxically hinges on famous pieces of art, the onus on Vertigo to find a truly gifted art team is paramount. Michael and Laura Allred are more than qualified to fill that particular role, recently coming off a stellar run with Dan Slott on Marvel’s Silver Surfer (pun intended) and they of course do not disappoint. The Allreds’ have an uncanny grasp of the fabulously mod, and that pop aesthetic is everywhere in this book, dominant in a way it wasn’t (and couldn’t be) on Silver Surfer. The art is lush and beautiful, with sequences you can really let yourself fall into—precisely like an affecting, stare-worthy painting.

Colorist Laura Allred makes the most out of a proliferation of drab interior and alley locations, and those scenes’ varying taupes complement and contrast the scenes where she can truly and vibrantly stretch her muscles (a posh party and pseudo-art heist both dazzle on the page). She also shines when protagonist Reggie’s (sort-of) prosthetic arm appears, made up of vividly-colored abstract-expressionistic blooples: one of the most visually intriguing aspects of the comic.

The writing on Art Ops does not measure up to its striking art, however. The issue’s narration becomes rather intrusive before long, especially towards the latter half of the book, while the characters and ideas set forth remain woefully unestablished (which is vital in a series’ first issue). There’s little explanation of the main concept—of art being “alive”— how it works, or how the Art Ops organization itself functions. Characterization is slight, and the only person that gets any development past one-dimensionality is Reggie, who it seems is doomed to be our brooding, reluctant hero, but instead comes off as a petulant spoiled brat. (Not exactly sympathetic, and a cliché either way.)


The female characters are there merely to motivate Reggie: he receives his magic squiggly-arm after an attack that leaves his girlfriend dead (following a three-page long development of their relationship that reads as deep as Reggie’s shallow misanthropy). His mother Regina, despite an intriguing introduction in the book’s first few pages, is almost abandoned in an immediate perspective shift to her son. The only remaining purpose she serves in the comic is to lament his absence at an awards ceremony, and then to disappear along with the rest of Art Ops—having inexplicably left instructions, in such odd circumstances, for estranged Reggie to take over.

There’s strangely very little art mentioned in the book. While the Mona Lisa gets an issues-long visual nod (which apparently continues on in the series), the only artist to get an actual namecheck is Jackson Pollock, in an all too on-the-nose reference to Reggie’s paint-gloop arm. (Oh, also Banksy gets a mention.) While built on an interesting premise and chock full of the prettiest sequentials you’ll see this week, Art Ops #1 begins with great promise, only to recede back into typicality with imprecise ideas, an uninteresting lead, and a mediocre script.

Vertigo Comics/$3.99

Written by Shaun Simon.

Art by Michael and Laura Allred.

6 out of 10