The Blacklist #1 - Does James Spader translate to print?

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THE BLACKLIST is just about my favorite network drama these days. Come to think about it, it is the only network drama I watch that is not superhero related. I will admit that pretty much all of my enjoyment of THE BLACKLIST comes from James Spader’s brilliant performance as Raymond “Red” Reddington. I’ve been a huge James Spader fan for as long as I can remember. That said, Meghan Boone and Ryan Eggold are both very good as the world’s most dysfunctional couple, Elizabeth and Tom Keen.

Long story short, THE BLACKLIST starts with the FBI’s most wanted criminal turning himself in. He’s willing to work with the feds to expose the world’s most dangerous criminals…but he will only work with newbie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen. Over the first two seasons, we’ve received a lot of hints about the connection between the two characters. There is a lot more to Red and Elizabeth than it seems.


THE BLACKLIST #1

Written by: Nicole Phillips
Art by: Deni Label
Cover by: Alice X. Zhang
Colored by: Esther Sanz
Lettered by: Annie Parkhouse

Published by: Titan
Cover Price: $3.99

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

This comics takes place late in the second season. A lot of Red’s actions have been to keep himself safe from a government conspiracy called The Cabal. Red’s only “ally” in The Cabal was Alan Fitch (played by Alan Alda) the Assistant Director of National Intelligence. The two both understood their relationship was based on mutually assured destruction. Fitch is killed midway through season 2, and this issue takes place soon after that. This death has given Red a lot of concerns about his own mortality and the legacy he’s leaving behind. He’s trying to connect with people on a more personal level, leading to an amusing conversation with Keen about her favorite plant (she tells him cactus).

While this is going on, Agent Keen is being harassed by a FBI training officer because she never finished the FBI’s physical qualifications. This officer is being a hard ass, and Keen finds herself suspected at a time when the FBI can least afford to lose her and her ties to Reddington. A terrorist named Leon Kiklinskihas been framing the FBI to make them look like murderers. Meanwhile, he seems to be targeting Keen’s boss Cooper.

One thing that I loved about this comic was they captured Red’s voice perfectly. James Spader has a real unique delivery, and I really felt like so much of the dialogue would sound perfect coming from Spader.

The story was also very true to the series. A criminal with a real unique way of committing crimes. Hints of a much bigger conspiracy. Red knowing far more about everything going than he’s willing to let on. Nichole Phillips is the script coordinator for THE BLACKLIST, so she was the perfect person to write this comic. It definitely feels like a lost episode of the series.

I also liked that after Alan’s death, Red has been thinking about his own actions and how Keen sees him. We really didn’t see Red get a chance to react to Alan’s death in the show, as the next episode was the big post-Super Bowl episode, which seemed intended to bring in new viewers more than give the characters a chance to reflect on everything that’s going on. This comic did a terrific job expanding the story and characters. Typically tie-in comics have to be shallow so they don’t contradict the “main” work, but THE BLACKLIST #1 didn’t fall into that category at all.

The only problem I had with this issue was the art wasn’t quite right. Most of the characters ALMOST looked right. I showed my wife Red and she pointed out that he looked kind of ragged here. Red is typically dressed pretty sharp. She even went so far as to say he looked like Homeless Red. And that was true of all the characters. They looked close to the actors who played them, but just something was off.

The cover was another gorgeous painting by the brilliant Alice X. Zhang. Ever since I saw her work on Titan’s Doctor Who comics, I’ve been a huge fan. Sadly, she’s not selling this cover on her website. I bought one of her Sherlock prints for my sister’s birthday, and I’d love an Alice X Zhang painting of James Spader for myself.

While I didn’t love the art, the strong story and flawless characterizations here more than made up for that. I really enjoyed this issue and look forward to the next one. This was a real strong opening for Titan’s newest series.

Title: THE BLACKLIST #1
Written By: Nicole Phillips
Art By: Deni Label
Company: Titan
Price: $3.99
Pros:
  • Very true to the show in terms of the characters and story
  • Does a nice job expanding on events in the show that didn't get much time
  • Alice X. Zhang's covers are masterpieces.
Cons:
  • I didn't like the art at all
Is it worth your $3.99? Definitely!  If you are a fan of the show, this is must read!  If not, I would still suggest giving it a look.  It's a very unique concept and very well done here.
Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0