by Andy Wolverton
It only takes two pages to get you drawn into Talent: Deluxe Edition. The writers — Christopher Golden (Baltimore: The Plague Ships, several Hellboy– and Buffy the Vampire Slayer-related books) and Tom Sniegoski (Fallen novel series, Remy Chandler novel series) — are both primarily novelists who know how to capture your attention from the first page and keep you reading. Things happen quickly, so it’s not really a spoiler to tell you that the book begins with Atlantic Flight 654 crashing, killing all its passengers except for a young college professor named Nicholas Dane.
Dane wakes up in a hospital and discovers he has memories and abilities he shouldn’t have. When he’s attacked by a hospital orderly, Dane surprises himself by using his fists quite effectively, a skill he’d never previously had. Yet before Dane can figure out where his new skills came from, he’s running for his life, hunted down by a strange secret society.
Talent (a four-issue miniseries originally published in 2006) is a mostly fast-paced thriller with an intriguing premise: what if you could tap into the abilities and talents of dead people? I say mostly fast-paced because Talent sometimes suffers from being very text-heavy, especially when characters are supplying backstory to the reader. Admittedly, some of this is necessary, but the pacing slows as a result.
Dane frequently sees visions and flashbacks he can’t understand. A sort of guardian angel in the form of a woman named Verdandi often appears, supplying Dane with answers that range from vague to revelatory. At one point, Verdandi speaks of those who died in the plane crash: “They gave their lives, their energy, to you, so that you might live. Their unfinished business is now yours, Nicholas. To each, you owe a debt. You serve them, now. And you serve the balance.”
The philosophical and theological implications of Talent are fascinating and I wish the creators had touched a bit more on those issues. Much is made of the fact that Dane, with his new abilities, is seeking to restore the balance between good and evil, but by the time the book is over, we’re left with more questions than answers. Still, this is only the first volume, and there is surely a lot more story to tell.
The art by Paul Azaceta (Outcast, Graveyard of Empires) has a stark, gritty noir feel, especially in dark, shadowy scenes. Most of the action/chase scenes are effective and flow well. Again, it’s only when the dialogue starts to pile up that problems occur; when there’s that much text going on, it’s hard to sustain much visual interest.
One of the biggest potential problems I see with Talent is in supplying Dane with the talents he needs to use as situations arise. We aren’t told that much about many of the passengers on Flight 654, so we aren’t sure about the talent pool Dane is able to pull from. It seems that such situations would need to be handled very carefully. (Dane needs to diffuse a bomb? Hey, a bomb expert was on the plane! You get the picture…) I think, however, that Golden and Sniegoski are trustworthy enough not to overuse Dane’s powers.
Talent: Deluxe Edition doesn’t really boast enough extras to justify the term “deluxe” — mainly an eight-page sketch gallery — but the book does include an intriguing premise and a good start to what I hope to see as an ongoing title.