ADVANCE REVIEW: Brilliant #1 (Spoiler Free)

Brilliant #1

Brilliant #1

Brilliant #1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley
Inks by Joe Rubinstein
Colors by Nick Filardi
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Icon/Marvel Comics / $3.95 / 40 pages

As we’ve watched the careers of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley develop, it certainly is a curious thing, this partnership between creators. On one hand, you have one of the most successful and prolific writers of the current age of comics in Bendis. Bred in the world of independent comics, Bendis has climbed the ladder of corporate comics by being one of the driving forces at Marvel Comics for the past 10 years, all the while still cultivating his creator owned work and flying the flag for creator rights and the importance of creator owned work. On the other hand, with Mark Bagley, you have the consummate professional. An artist who emerged on the scene during one of the highest points of the comic book industry. Bagley has weathered the storm of the fallout of the late 1990s and the uncertainy of the early 2000s by becoming one of the most dependable artists in the business. Bagley has almost become “Mr. Ongoing Run”, with 25 issues of New Warriors, 50 issues of Thunderbolts, 111 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man (with Bendis), and then for DC Comics, 52 issues of Trinity, and 15 issues of Justice League of America, Bagley has certainly earned his fame through consistent, top level output.

Now Bagley is reunited with Bendis, after the record breaking 111 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man (and 5 more issues most recently depicting the Death of Ultimate Spider-Man), but this time, Bagley has signed onto the creator owned wagon, with Brilliant #1.

Throughout his career, Bendis has never been short of great ideas when it comes to his creator owned books. Beginning with noir-ish crime like Jinx, Goldfish and Torso, then expanding that crime angle and adding super-heroes with Powers.  More recently, Bendis returned to creator owned work with his tale of urban uprising in Scarlet.  This time around, Bendis’ premise engine has delivered another super powered tale, but this time in the guise of a thriller about a group of genius college students who have cracked the code of super powers. Bendis’ own description of Brilliant, as we’ve heard on recent Word Balloon podcasts, compares it to the film The Social Network, asking what if a group of really smart kids invented super powers as opposed to a website? Bendis is never without a smart premise with a hint of cleverness and Brilliant is no exception.  He’s proven his ability to be a master comics storyteller and in Brilliant he does a perfect job at drawing us in, with a brief glimpse of this world while introducing us to the main players.  As usual, Bendis does it in a way that makes it seem easy.  The pages fly by as the story develops without you even noticing that this goes beyond the standard 22 pages of a comic book story.  I wondered about Bendis’ ability to write dialogue of college students, but each character is well formed (for a first issue) and at no point did the dialogue feel “researched” or hokey in anyway.

Along with Bendis’ ability to script college students, I was curious to see how Bagley would fare in depicting these characters, as well as the representation of characters not in super hero costumes.  While the topic of Brilliant is super powers, this is very much not a world like the Marvel Universe, or the Powers Universe for that matter. Aside from a few questionable haircuts (which isn’t surprising after the years of Ultimate Spider-Man and that awful Peter Parker hair), Bagley’s characters fit within the world and the story.  That said, I was surprised by the art. It might be the by-product of Bagley being inked by Joe Rubinstein (an inker he hasn’t worked with since the mid-90s, as far I could research) but something was definitely different than the Bagley of the past 10 years that we’ve read in books like Ultimate Spider-Man and Trinity.  The art had a rougher feel to it that I’ve come accustomed to with Bagley. Now, this may have been on purpose in an effort to differentiate Brilliant from his other work, but I couldn’t help but feel like it detracted from the work in total. The opening pages started out as tight as I’d expect, but it’s almost as if Bagley got looser as the book went on, with later pages being much more rough in the line work. Now, I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s still the great Bagley that we know and love, but just something felt a little less than.  It’s still better than the majority of the books on the shelves art-wise, but I just can’t help but to think that Bagley is capable of better. Especially when it comes to faces and the surprising number of panels without any backgrounds whatsoever, a lack of detail I wouldn’t expect from Bagley.

Art expectations aside, Brilliant #1 is a well formed introduction into a new world. Bendis and Bagley have more than proven themselves as a creative team with their legendary run on Ultimate Spider-Man, and Bagley is a master of the ongoing run, so it’s pretty much a lock that Brilliant will be a series worth subscribing to. While one issue alone can’t show us brilliance, Brilliant #1 sets up a very intriguing world with the potential for something quite special.

Story: 5 / Art: 3 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5 Stars)



  1. Never really been a fan of Bagley’s art, which is one of the main reasons I never really got into USM while he was the artist. And that cover is one of the ugliest things I’ve seen for a long time. Weak drawing and bad design – how did this ever get through! Still, I’ll give it a shot since Bendis is normally pretty reliable especially on creator owned material.

  2. I love it great review

  3. Nice review. Been looking forward to this since it was announced.

  4. I may be intrigued…Is the main character supposed to look like David Tennant?

  5. That cover convinced me to not buy this book. The design quality is below student level, and i can’t bring myself to support that. Sometimes you have to judge a book by its cover, especially in a conjested market with lots of options and $4 price points.

    The state of graphic design in comics…especially with covers, really saddens me.

  6. The cover is fugly.

  7. i love that Bendis and Bagley are back together. hope this is good. thanks

  8. Trade waitin’

  9. I’m intrigued. It’s same day digitial on Comixology so I’ll try the first issue.