Comic Publishers

August 19, 2017

BOOM! Reviews: Namesake Softcover Edition

Namesake SC
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Jakub Rebelka
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Cover: Jakub Rebelka

As a reader typically very fixated on character, I found this is a hard book to like. At it’s heart, Namesake is a story about Connecticut firefighter Jordan Molossus’ journey to discover his origin. About finding himself, or more accurately defining himself, and coming to grips with the influences his fathers imposed on his life and identify. It is a vivid and graphically violent descent into some of our most basic drives. It addresses the very human need to divine our beginnings, often by cataloging the catalysts and mitigating considerations that dictate our behavior and our values. It is a measured examination of a dystopian future where fantastic social and scientific developments abound among the clashing cultures of Earth and Ektae. These two societies, thrust together every seven years during an inter-dimensional convergence called the Blessing, have given rise to a very similarly segregated populace to what we see today. During this terrestrial exchange, individuals like Jordan’s fathers find ways to connect among the chaos. Their coupling contradicts the conveyed tenor of the event, and easily provides the the most sympathetic characterization in the narrative.

My problem with the story isn’t the writer’s somber aspirations, or even inadequate character development. Orlando actually seems to relish constructing a character so myopic and uncompromising. From very early on in the proceedings, we know exactly who Jordan Molossus is. The problem is, who he is just happens to be an emotionally stunted sadist. Don’t get me wrong, Orlando and Rebelka include a few superficial panels establishing Jordan as a dutiful and compassionate civil servant. However, his actions provide a stark contrast to that portrait. He’s short-tempered and prone to extreme violence, generally without any semblance of consideration. Granted, the creative team allude to a particularly colorful background for the character. It is clear that he developed a considerable reputation among the Ektae underworld. On Earth, his professional relationships come off as perfunctory and his personal connections seem almost forced. He tows the line of respectability, but it is obvious that he is seething beneath the facade.

Jordan is antisocial, and however justifiable his perspective may seem based on his experiences, I never once got the feeling that he actually desired any transformation in that regard. And as a person who has struggled socially in the past, this discrepancy struck a very real and personal chord with me. There is a kind of miraculous deviation that leads to what I feel is a very hollow catharsis in the resolution. It just doesn’t ring true. Maybe I should look at Jordan’s arc as more of a John Wick style resurgence, a rekindling of a dormant inferno that only encompasses a facet of a deeper and more versatile character. Unfortunately, Orlando never really showcases any deep or transformative personal connections that lend any credence to that perspective. Moreover, Jordan is aggressive and antagonistic without any introspective examination. In his pursuit, all things are permissible and he isn’t remotely remorseful for any harm or death inflicted. His fathers are far more interesting and conflicted and they occupy far too little of the narrative to redeem their wayward sons escapades. Jordan’s journey is harrowing and exquisitely rendered, as Rebelka’s art is pitch perfect and arresting throughout. I really just wish the lead character was likable enough for me to care.

Christian Davenport

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