Icon & Rocket: Season One #1 Lands a Solid Origin Story for Its Groundbreaking Heroes
Tim Rooney
Hot on the heels of Static: Season One, the Milestone comeback continues with a slightly revamped origin story for Icon and Rocket. Written by Reginald Hudlin, with artwork by Doug Braithwaite, colors by Brad Anderson, and lettering by AndWorld Design, Icon and Rocket: Season One #1 relaunches Milestone's groundbreaking series. The original Icon was one of the all-time greatest runs of superhero comics, deftly dealing with issues of race in America, teen pregnancy, and the intersection of class and culture in the media. Where Milestone's reboot of Static played with the titular character's origin story, Icon and Rocket's new series is more faithful to the original; however, the creative team's subtle changes are even more intriguing.
Long ago, an alien creature crash-landed on Earth in 19th century Georgia. This alien then adopted the name Augustus Freeman and tried to use his great powers for good, but, he eventually faded into the edges of society, discouraged by his inability to meaningfully change the world. When Freeman meets a young woman named Raquel in the modern-day -- who he caught breaking into his home in a misguided attempt to impress her boyfriend -- she convinces him to try again. She sees the potential for his powers to make a difference in her community and to inspire others, even if he does not believe there is much hope left.
Icon and Rocket Secret Identities
Icon and Rocket Secret Identities
In the original series, one of the defining features of the superhero pair was their clashing political views. In 21st century America, Hudlin and the Milestone team have reevaluated the impact of Icon's right-leaning views that are often harmful, particularly in Black communities. Augustus' reticence to use his powers to serve his community is thus less economically motivated and more rooted in a jaded opinion of America and its systemic failures to support marginalized communities. These shifts are subtly presented in Icon and Rocket: Season 1 #1, but indicate a modernized approach to the Superman archetype -- a man who needs the optimistic worldview of the next generation to pull him out of apathy. Otherwise, most of the major story beats are a straight retelling of the original Icon #1 by Dwayne McDuffie, a testament to the timelessness of that original setup.
Overall, Hudlin’s script is tight. Hudlin packs in a lot of character setup and background information while still keeping the story moving through narratives told in the past and present. The book's final moment feels earned with both characters coming to the decision in a way that readers can understand -- thanks, in part, to the story's fluid structure.
Braithwaite's art effectively depicts subtle nuances to the story's characters. His characters move and emote in naturalistic ways. Without Braithwaite's convincingly conveying the complicated feelings of these characters, the conversation-heavy book could have come off as wooden or boring. Instead, Braithwaite’s characters and layouts keep the book dynamic and emotionally engaging. The naturalistic approach helps this first issue exist in a space that evokes the real world, which feels like the right choice for the heavy material and themes in the book.
Brad Anderson’s strong coloring sets the issue's dour mood and illustrates Augustus' hopeless state through the use of deep, dark shadows. In the final panel of the issue, Raquel appears to be shining a light on the very same darkness that Augustus has called home for so long. The letter work from AndWorld Design is masterful, never allowing the heavy dialogue to overpower the artwork or become too convoluted across the page.
A strong debut issue with a familiar setup, Icon and Rocket Season One's debut issue is a welcomed return for Milestone's groundbreaking heroes. This issue's subtle changes to characterization and worldview are an intriguing twist on the original Icon. Fans looking to discover (or rediscover) this Milestone hero are in for an excellent first issue that sets up a series with an assured and clear point of view.