There are three words I tend to stay away from in comics: Mature Readers Only. Part of the reason I dove head first into comics as an entertainment medium in 2019 was to get away from some of the toxic themes and vulgarity that were so prevalent in other media. For that reason, I’ve never read a comic penned by Mark Millar. At least I hadn’t, until Wednesday’s release of The Ambassadors #1. The text in the solicit intrigued me:
Imagine you could gift superpowers to six people. In a world of eight billion, who do you choose? Join six of the greatest artists in the industry for an enormous story about ordinary people from around the world explaining why it should be them.
On top of the interesting story premise, each issue is drawn by a different artist. (Issue 1 is by Frank Quitely. My most anticipated is Olivier Coipel on issue 4.) My thoughts were “I’ve heard Millar can be pretty gratuitous, but this concept seems really cool. I’ll try out the first issue at least.” What followed is a perfect example of how stepping outside your comfort zone as a reader can serve you well.
The series debut certainly reads like a TV pilot — fitting given Millarworld’s groundbreaking first look deal at Netflix. We’re introduced to an interesting cast of characters. Government Field Agents, Heads of State, and a monkey with super speed and telekinesis? It’s probably best if I leave it vague, so you can enjoy it yourself.
We learn that the US and Russia have been in a Cold War-style arms race for decades. But instead of racing to put a man on the moon or build a nuclear weapon, the countries have been racing to build a superman. Despite some heavy theatrics on the part of the United States, not much discernible progress has been made on the subject, until now. An unknown entity appears to have cracked the super-code, and governments are taking notice.
The unknown entity doesn’t stay that way for long. Dr. Choon-He Chung, a scientist currently in prison for fraud, organizes a press event (think Apple Keynote) at the South Korean embassy, where she reveals the accomplishment of her life’s work, and her plan for a Willy Wonka-style competition to choose 6 people deserving of having the superpowers she has learned to develop and impart.
Just like that, our stage is set; and I’m pretty excited to see how it all plays out. While Dr. Chung doesn’t appear to be motivated by money or anything otherwise unscrupulous, there are plenty of actors in this book who will be. For those looking for Mark Millar’s trademark graphic violence and coarse language, you’ll find plenty in the final pages; and if the ending of issue 1 is any indication, it will certainly ramp up as the series continues.
Frank Quitely’s stylized art has been polarizing in the past, but it really shines in this issue. His storytelling is particularly captivating in the opening sequences, and he never takes his foot off the gas pedal. The colors by Quitely add just the right amount of depth to his sometimes sparse linework. While I’m looking forward to the who’s who of A-list art talent on the series, I’m a little bummed we won’t get to see Quitely play in this universe any longer.
Overall, I’m pleased with this series debut. As the competition gets started, I’m excited to meet our contestant and choose my own favorite. I’m also very curious to learn more how the Big Bad introduced in the final pages will progress as the series goes on. Simply put, Issue 1 hooked me, and I’m ready for more. If you’re looking for a title to add to your Pull List, you could do a lot worse than The Ambassadors.