Review: Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road trade paperback (DC Comics)

For the doomed "New Age of Heroes" title Silencer, the awkwardly titled Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road marks the shark-jumping beginning of the end. And yet, for what seems an ill-conceived introduction of the supernatural into this action sci-fi series, writer Dan Abnett pulls it off remarkably well. That underscores the strength of the characters Abnett has created here; while I doubt this book could have held up its "mom is secretly an assassin" premise through a hundred issues, Silencer Honor Guest is likable and interesting — and versatile for a variety of stories, we see here — and I hope she continues to be a player in the Leviathan-focused stories to come in the DC Universe even if not starring in her own book.

[Review contains spoilers]

Hell-iday sees ex-assassin Honor bring her family overseas ostensibly to visit an amusement park, but actually to sneak off and try to prevent the resurrection of her former handler Talia al Ghul. That's well and good and keeping with the previous volume, in which Honor fought her way through gangsters and cyborgs in an attempt to break free of Talia. Things take a turn, however, when Leviathan's horned purveyor of magic gets involved (named, of all things, Lady Wishbone) and casts a bevy of spells, one of which body-swaps Honor and her enemy, the robotic Quietus, and another of which unleashes a giant lizardly monster upon the amusement park and Honor's family.

Covers by Viktor Bogdanovic depict over-the-top scenes of Silencer being strangled by tentacled demons; inside, however, Abnett makes it all work better than it should. The body-swapping helps crystallize Quietus for the reader, and he goes on to become a major player in the latter part of the book. Putting Quietus in Silencer's body suspensefully endangers her secret identity (when secret identity conflicts are something of a lost art among the main DC set these days) and equally Abnett makes good use of Silencer being able to interact with her husband and son while she looks like Quietus.

The whole "big monster" fight seems out of place (artist Patch Zircher had some choice words), but by the start of the book's second arc, "Cold, Cold Heart," Abnett's created a weird traveling party of Silencer, Quietus' conscious severed head, and the lizard monster now shrunk to a talking were-dog. And it works in a "hard-luck heroes" kind of way, especially against the backdrop of sneaking in to Talia's snowy Leviathan palace. Despite elements of absurdity, the characters are all relying on one another while dealing with their individual hang-ups and the question of whether defying or pledging loyalty to Talia is the better part of valor, and Abnett makes the characters fully realized enough for us to care about them.

On the face of it, "silence powers" seems a thin premise for a hero, but Abnett has and continues to make good use of it. The book's first issue is an unnecessary one-off where Silencer fights bounty hunters on her plane on the way overseas, but her ability to quiet the action essentially means Silencer can have this fight almost right behind her own family and no one realizes. Abnett uses the "zone of silence" to good dramatic effect, and also when Silencer raises it before battling guards outside Talia's castle, but then has to lower it again to get Michael the were-dog to rein in his mayhem.

Hell-iday ends with the Silencer Annual #1, a flashback tale to when Silencer still worked for Talia and ran afoul of Batman. In Batman fighting and then teaming up with Silencer, and in Silencer being both antagonist and hero, we see again a lot of what makes this character so compelling. It would be easy to posit Silencer as an action figure like Deathstroke, except Deathstroke is an assassin for hire and Silencer simply wants out of the life, though she's easily drawn back in by an innocent in need. In that way Silencer is more of a violent anti-hero a la Manhunter Kate Spencer than Deathstroke, destined to be disapproved of by the Justice League but still admirable enough to follow. There's plenty to do with that character, though I still think Abnett could only have kept up the "suburban mom whose family doesn't know her history" for only so long before it would need to be revealed and the book would change significantly.

Art in the first issue is by Bogdanovic, who did well in Silencer Vol. 1: Code of Honor setting the semi-outlandish tone of this book, though the filler status of that issue does Bogdanovic no favors. "Hell-iday Road" is drawn by Zircher, the book's clear MVP, giving the otherwise-ridiculous magic some much-needed seriousness, and it's a shame Zircher himself didn't seem to like this assignment much. The final "Cold, Cold Day" issues and the annual are by Jack Herbert, whose work I liked on Action Comics, though here the characters sometimes have legs like Masters of the Universe toys and Herbert is inking himself a little too dark for my tastes.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road

I'm eager to see what happens to Silencer next after Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road, how Dan Abnett wraps this all up and where he leaves it. Again, I'm skeptical Honor can make it out of this with her family still behind her, but probably making the character more of a "free agent" is the best way to keep her present in and around the DC Universe. Surely a title like Batman and the Outsiders has need for her services.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road
Author Rating
3.75 (scale of 1 to 5)


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