4 out of 5
While the effect of mixing superheroes with the “real world” has a long history of being explored by now – with a lot of inspirations traced back to Watchmen – Christos Gage’s ‘Absolution’ finds a novel, interesting way to examine it, by mixing super powered beings with the police department: not officially employed, but used in a capacity to combat other supers, or jobs too dangerous for others. John Dusk is one such hero, and we pick up with him recounting the after action of tackling a particularly nasty white supremacist. Said nasty customer died on the job, but it’s deemed justified; left out of Dusk’s recollection, though, is how he purposefully let the man bleed out on the scene after seeing what he’d done to some kidnappees in a connecting room.
A similar scene is repeated later in the issue: a domestic abuse call Dusk takes one restless night ends up in him enacting some direct – and violent – ‘justice,’ then calling it in as a murder / suicide.
Yes, this is Shield meets superheroes – which I’m positive is how it was pitched – but Dusk is a more likeable character than Vince Mackie, and Gage gives him a grapple on humanity we can understand, with a good marriage, friends at work, and haunting visions of the horrors he’s witnessed on the job. People are essentially shrugging off the opening bad guy’s death anyway, so, end justify the means…?
As with The Shield, though, and because this is Avatar, the name of the game is over-violence and R-rated language. It works within the context of the series, but like a lot of Avatar, there’s also the sense that there was probably another way to do this that didn’t feel so indulgently adolescent. Gage’s script is much stronger than these flourishes, but there’s no doubt which publisher you’re reading.