Three issues in, Prowler reaches the midpoint of its opening arc. At this point, writer Sean Ryan and artist Jamal Campbell try to build some momentum through this story to carry this series beyond “Dead No More: A Clone Conspiracy”. Prowler #3 is basically an extended fight scene and little else, though, after two relatively exposition-heavy issues, the change of pace is a welcome one. Although it is light on narrative, the high action gives writer Sean Ryan a great opportunity to establish the character of Hobie Brown.
As this series has progressed, Sean Ryan seems to have gotten more of a bead on Prowler’s voice. This series inches closer to presenting a clear picture of who Hobie is as a character. By focusing on his inventiveness, Sean Ryan shows us a character who thinks on his feet and can devise creative solutions to impossible situations. Prowler is not a powered character like Spider-Man but neither is he a fighter like Batman. He must rely solely on his wits. This particular approach to Prowler’s technological skills hearkens back to his origins as a working-class inventor looking to make a name for himself, rather than the more high dollar Iron Man. It is a promising development for a character who began this series essentially as a blank slate.
Francine Frye, the new Electro, provides an excellent foil against whom Sean Ryan may better define Hobie’s character. There is an obvious contrast in that she is a powered character while he is technology-based, but the contrast goes deeper than that. He is methodical; she is chaotic. The extended battle scene is an effective way to compare two characters and make the personality of a previously nebulous character more distinct.
The issue creates an excellent sense of tension as he must fight off Electro while his own body breaks down. Threats seem to come from every direction. Most of the fight takes place in dark corridors, making Prowler feel hunted. It is a classic, no frills chase. Arguably, the thin narrative in this issue does not help out a story that already appears to have trouble progressing, but it certainly is a step in the right direction for the series. However, I’m not sure if the book is quite developing its voice or its protagonist at a clip fast enough to hook anyone still iffy on the series.
After two issues of having his art restricted to drawing heads talking to one another, Jamal Campbell finally gets to let loose. His art explodes on the page. The same lighting effects that previously lit up screens now can lend a phosphorescent glow to Electro’s powers. His actions sequences work well with Sean Ryan’s script adding insight to Hobie’s thought processes throughout the fight. Sean Ryan has also begun to back off when necessary and let the art speak for itself. When he does write, his insights through his inner monologue helps refine the character more.
Although this issue is enjoyable enough in its own right, it does little to move forward its “Dead No More” plot. It is now halfway through and I am not entirely sure where this story is going, if anywhere. However, at this juncture, I would prefer Ryan to continue to develop his protagonist rather than continue its clone plot. If this book is going to have any legs at all, it needs to invest in its protagonist instead of telling someone else’s story.
Hopefully, this series can build off of some of the momentum established here into something sustainable long term. With a crowded marketplace filled with four dollar books, each series much justify its existence by offering the audience something that they cannot read anywhere else. This book has not quite done that yet, but establishing a well-defined protagonist would go a long way towards doing so.
Yet, I cannot help but feel that “Dead No More“ has hampered the series’ development in more ways than just tying up its opening arc in a plot that doesn’t help establish the tone of the series. For now, I hope that whichever Hobie Brown I’m reading, whether the real deal or the clone, continues to come into focus as a fully-fledged character.