Review: Silencer Vol. 3: Up in Smoke trade paperback (DC Comics)

Silencer continues to feel like a better book than it ever should have been, and all credit to writer Dan Abnett, who's kept it going all this time despite never getting top billing. The 1990s aesthetic is on full-bore in Silencer Vol. 3: Up in Smoke, from artist V. Ken Marion's style in general to the book's collection of wacky, overdrawn villains. What sells it, as always, is Silencer Honor Guest's very relatable love for her perfectly normal family and, moreover, that this time around (the book's final outing) Abnett brings Honor face-to-face with her family in her Silencer guise. The results are clever and unexpected.

I've said for a while that I didn't think Silencer could really continue indefinitely as a series. That said, I'm eager to see Honor remain part of the ongoing DC Universe. There seems to be a solution on the table for that; though not flawless, it gives me hope that there's a plan out there for Honor to keep showing up.

[Review contains spoilers]

New series artist Marion, one of many this ostensibly artist-focused "New Age of Heroes" title has had, suffers from being so good he's bad here, or maybe vice versa. Given the number of big-gunned, sharp-clawed, grossly cybernetic throwaway assassins that Silencer fights, someone whose art has a loose, cartoonish 1990s style is just what's needed; Silencer looks straight out of Wildstorm. While that sells the tone of the book — if we believe there's a certain meta-presentation going on — I'd worry it would lead to exactly what happened, the book's cancellation. Reading Silencer, I think there's something very imaginative happening on, but looking at Silencer, it looks far lesser than most books on the stands, and that's trouble. That it might be intentional is beside the point; one rather wishes Patrick Zircher had been willing to stick around, if not John Romita.

But the story Abnett tells here is interesting and well-structured, especially for a six-issue final volume. We start out with our most detailed look yet at Honor's origins (courtesy flashback while she floats in a Lazarus Pit), a surprisingly touching tale of how Honor and Talia al Ghul came together and eventually split apart (Talia and Honor's relationship has been another good part of this whole series). From there, we learn that Honor was a child altered with the DNA of Ra's al Ghul — that she is, in essence, a daughter of Ra's al Ghul — and then we're introduced to Honor's deranged "sister" Smoke, who goes after Honor's family.

Smoke is, like most of Silencer's foes in this series, really rather ridiculous, a boilerplate Goth-style villainess who sports on occasion a gun almost larger than she is. But the focus is not so much Smoke as on the fact that she breaks into the Guests' house, where Honor's husband Blake and son Ben believe Honor died in an overseas incident as of Silencer Vol. 2: Hell-iday Road. Blake is warned of a coming attack by a woman, whom he initially believes to be Silencer, though shortly thereafter Silencer is protecting Blake and Ben from Smoke. It almost stretches the bounds of believability (not for the first time) that Blake can't figure out Silencer is Honor, but I like the new paradigm that Abnett has set up almost effortlessly, from Honor hiding her Silencer identity from her family to Honor's family now believing they're endangered by terrorists and protected by the mysterious Silencer (who is totally not Honor).

I've noted before that I didn't think Silencer's premise could last. There's only so many times that Blake could almost find out about Honor's double life before that might get repetitive, and once Blake does find out, show's over. I do feel like Abnett bought himself some time however — and again, cleverly — by bringing Silencer into the Guests' lives "separate" from Honor. That's all moot anyway, of course, but here at the end I see how Abnett could have teased some more life out of it.

Having perused Event Leviathan, there's a tiny bit of incongruity between that story and this ... or is there? At the end of Up in Smoke, Honor is out of the assassin life, having left Talia behind and seemingly safe now that Talia's dealing with Event Leviathan. But in the miniseries, we find Silencer working for Talia again. Though one might like to think it's just the moving company knocking on the door at the end of Smoke, one can imagine it's Talia instead, seeking help; we don't see that sequence, but it's a way to bridge one to the other. I appreciate Brian Michael Bendis including Silencer in Leviathan and his apparent esteem for the character; I'd like to think we'll see Honor Guest again in Bendis' Checkmate series.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Silencer Vol. 3: Up in Smoke

So with Silencer Vol. 3: Up in Smoke, this series comes to an end. Granted there's a couple "New Age of Heroes" series I haven't finished reading yet, but I don't think it's a stretch to predict Silencer might have been the best of them. Kudos to Dan Abnett for what he made out of this; between Silencer, his long Aquaman run, and others, Abnett continues to impress.

[Includes original covers, character studies, and cover sketches and pencils]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Silencer Vol. 3: Up in Smoke
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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