Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett (W)
Antonio Fuso (A)
I am loving the new wave of female-led spy thrillers lately. First Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet, then Black Widow’s solo series, and now Butterfly by Arash Amel, Marguerite Bennett, and Antonio Fuso.
Arash Amel may have have developed the story for Butterfly but it is Marguerite Bennett who brings it to life on the page. I have been a fan of Marguerite Bennett for a while now. Though she has only penned a few one-shot issues here and there, she’s really making a name for herself. The Batgirl Zero Year tie-in, Joker’s Daughter #1, Lois Lane #1, and Lobo’s Villain Month appearance have all been stand out comics. Her stories are consistently quite dark and her characters twisty. I have been eagerly waiting for Marguerite to be given a series instead of yet another one-shot.
The central character of this series is a spy named Rebecca Faulkner, code-name Butterfly. She is a deep cover agent for Project Delta, where she carries out dangerous missions and stays off the radar — she is a ghost. But on what should have been a simple retrieval mission in Norway her cover is blown and she’s suspected for a murder that she didn’t commit. And if things weren’t bad enough, her handler and quartermaster aren’t answering their phones. On the run she calls the third number in her phone, the number that’s only to be used in emergencies. But all it gives her is a set of coordinates and a name — Nightingale.
The real twist of this issue, however, isn’t that her mission has gone terribly wrong. The twist is that when she decides to follow the coordinates to Nightingale, it takes her right to her father’s doorstep. This is a surprise, given that she thought he died twenty years earlier in the Somali desert.
This is a comic that cuts to the chase. There are only four issues scheduled and Bennett and Fuso don’t waste a page. You are thrown into Butterfly’s mission with only the most basic information needed: she is an extremely capable agent, her father died when she was younger, and something has gone terribly wrong. This works for the first part of the issue, until Butterfly goes out in search of Nightingale. As I previously mentioned, this search leads to the revelation that her father is alive. As a result, the second half of this issue is a series of flashbacks from her father’s perspective. They range from ten minutes ago, to one year ago, and all the way back to December 1993. There are five separate flashback scenes, one page apiece and they follow in quick succession. This section of the comic should shed light on who her father is and what his motivations may be, but they feel too chaotic and incomplete to add any real depth to his character. I hope that this format isn’t maintained in subsequent issues.
Antonio Fuso’s art is not my usual style. It’s quite angular and rough, very much the opposite of the smooth, detailed style of Phil Noto’s work in Black Widow (and on the cover). I was initially worried this would work against the story since the two books are quite similar. But so far it seems to be fitting the tone of the comic. The panel layout is very basic but because there are so many on one page it feels like you are watching Butterfly’s movements through a series of snapshots. It moves quickly from shots of the entire room, to just her face, to something close up like an eye or a weapon. His art guides you through the story quickly and efficiently. There is no doubt as to what you’re supposed to be looking at and you won’t miss any important information. Some readers may dislike the narrow focus but others will enjoy how to-the-point it is. I would wager that the art will be what divides people’s opinions on this comic more than the flashbacks.
I wasn’t completely sold on the first issue of Butterfly. But I think Butterfly herself could be an interesting character and I definitely have questions about her father and her employers that I want answers to. It’s enough to bring me back for at least one more round.