COMIC REVIEW: Chase vol. 1

It’s hard enough being a Federal agent, but when your beat is superhuman affairs and it’s your first day on the job…who’d want to be Cameron Chase?

Chase stars Agent Cameron Chase, on field assignment for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO), a government agency with jurisdiction over superhuman activity, she’s about to encounter some unexpected surprises, as her own mysterious powers come into play – powers she doesn’t fully understand.

I came to Chase with very high expectations, it’s a series I’d heard about off and on from fellow comic fans for a number of years. It has artwork by the now legendary JH Williams III and features a raft of cameos from DC’s most famous characters and the premise really appeals to me. However, possibly because of this, the reality doesn’t quite match the expectation.

The series that makes up most of this collection dates from 1998 and I must admit it doesn’t look like standard 90s comics in the slightest, you could release this today and it would be perfectly comfortable alongside the more popular Image books. However what it does mean is that whilst when it was originally released the concept of a “human’s eye” view of the superhuman world was probably quite fresh but now it has to contend with the likes of Powers and (most pertinently for this setting) Gotham Central. The latter is a slightly different take than Chase, as it really does push the superheroes into the background whereas Chase interacts with the likes of Batman quite frequently.

Chase comes to the story with a set of supporting characters and a backstory that’s relatively interesting, and throughout the book we get hints as to what certain events in her past might have been and how they influence her present. There’s a pay-off for one of these in the later issues, which is satisfying if not spectacular, but the cancellation of the series means that some of the others don’t get to play out. Her DEO colleagues aren’t really fleshed out much, principally there’s Director Bones and Sandy “Bear” Barrett but we don’t really get to know them.

There’s obviously a lot going on the in the DCU at this time, I must admit I wasn’t reading any DC when this is published, but we get references to No Man’s Land, President Luthor and Millennium (and those are just the ones a DC novice like me spotted) which are never really pulled to the fore, no handy captions telling you what cryptic event is being referred to in Kansas for example.

Whilst the intervening 16 years make this seem less fresh and revolutionary when it comes to the story and characters the art stands up well. It’s by no means JH Williams III at his Batwoman best but it does show some of the inventiveness and design flair that he took to Promethea the next year. The traditional rectangular panel hardly gets a look in, rather we get a recurring circular motif as well as some wonderful border designs.┬áThere are also nods in the artwork, particularly in the DC 1,000,000 issue, to Judge Dredd, Marshal Law as well as certain Marvel characters…I guess the big two were still playing nicely back then. We also get to see some Charlie Adlard pencils from before his career became dominated by the phenomenal success of the Walking Dead.

Organised chronologically from her first appearance in Batman #550, which also acts as a primer on each and every version of the character Clayface, I found the latter part of the collection rather bitty as it contains backup stories featuring Chase or the DEO and there’s no end to her story as such. I hear Chase has reappeared in the New 52 and I’ll certainly keep an eye open for her, but I won’t be making it a point to Chase down further appearances.

Title: Chase

Publisher: DC Comics

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Dave W

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