The Silencer #14: Still DC's best new bet
Creating compelling characters is hard, but it’s not as hard as DC and Marvel might lead you to believe. The strategy at the Big Two seems to be one of recycling and repurposing, and the rare new thing seldom gets more than a few issues to prove itself.
DC launched its New Age of Heroes initiative a little over a year ago, and the company sold it as top talent working on fresh concepts and characters. There was an emphasis, in these early promotions, on the artist, both in the actual creators chosen to work on the line—names like Jim Lee, John Romita, Jr., and Tony Daniel—and in DC’s commitment to place the line artist’s name first in the list of talent on the cover. If you think all of that sounds like a gimmick, then you are (largely) on target—the superstar artists were mostly gone before an arc had finished, and, let’s face it, the order of the names ultimately tells us nothing about whether or not the company values its creative people.
And what about those fresh concepts? In reality, we ended up with a few interesting ones, a few Marvel apes, and a few duds. But the cream of the crop, without question, has always been The Silencer. It has tangential connections to Batman’s world, but it has never depended on Batman showing up. It has a brand-new hero with a simple, unique power that has been used to great effect thus far. It has amazing hand-to-hand action sequences, responsibility, family, and real stakes. If there’s a book DC is publishing right now that deserves to succeed, it’s this one.
I’ve been on-and-off with The Silencer since its first arc ended, but I decided to jump back in this week for #14. Our hero, Honor Guest, has been coerced back into the employ of Talia Al Ghûl. If she sways in her devotion, her husband and son face consequences. But Talia ran Honor through, and revived her in a Lazarus Pit—a mode of rejuvenation known to mess with one’s mind.
The issue opens with The Silencer on-mission, and Talia under the impression that any memories of Honor’s family have been erased by the Lazarus Effect. We see our hero brutally and efficiently carrying out her mistress’s bidding in fabulous detail, thanks to artists V. Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, and Mike Spicer. This has been one of the biggest appeals of the book from the start: Honor’s power—the ability to shh a zone of silence around she and her quarry—is super cool, but her expert capabilities in close combat are what ultimately get the job done. So we have the metahuman appeal, but we also get to page through panel after panel of gorgeous comic book beatdowns.
Meanwhile, Honor’s husband tries to work through the grief of losing his wife (though he knows not whether she lives) while simultaneously trying to wrap his mind around her secret life. Abnett works these two parallel threads—Honor’s and her husband’s—skillfully, providing a bit of narrative misdirection that yields a great deal of satisfaction once we get to the true nature of things. I still worry over the ultimate fate of Honor’s husband and (to a lesser extent) son, but Abnett has already surprised me with how he’s continued to keep the series moving, so perhaps the family will be spared.
In the end, The Silencer #14 works so well for the same reasons the entire series has up to this point: we have a butt-kicking hero with extraordinary abilities; but more than anything else, what she wants is something ordinary. For Honor Guest, there is nothing more important than getting back to her family, and she will bring her considerable skills to bear on anyone who stands in her way.