Have you ever walked out of a DC movie and thought, “That was dark and gritty, but I want something even more dark and gritty?” If so, then The Consultant is definitely the comic for you. Its bright color palette notwithstanding, it’s chock full of all the plotlines and arcs DC has to cut from its movies to keep them PG-13, such as waterboarding, drugs, and murdered prostitutes. Basically the only thing this comic and its protagonist’s moral code shy away from is killing kids.

Written by Jason Sterr, the first volume of The Consultant follows Marcus Greenberg, a former Navy SEAL who now makes millions cleaning up after a superhero team called The Guardians. Well, cleaning up and making sure their messes never see the light of day in the first place. Greenberg knows how to spin a story, how to plant evidence, frame people, and how to blow up buildings. When Spartan, one of the Guardians (a character obviously based on Superman) commits manslaughter, Greenberg treats it as just another day at the office—the incident Spartan needs cleaned up has happened several times before.

Things start to get out of hand, however, when someone in Greenberg’s and the Guardians’ inner circle leaks the story to the police, and Spartan finds himself under arrest. Although Greenberg keeps his cool, his plans to keep the other Guardians isolated from the scandal become more and more complex and grandiose. When he realizes he can’t keep the situation contained, he starts leaking his own dirt on various Guardian members to keep himself out of jail.

The Guardians are clearly patterned after members of the Justice League—if members of the Justice League all had deep, dark, career-ending secrets. The Superman stand-in regularly commits manslaughter, the Green Lantern character is selling US military secrets to the highest bidder, and at least one character is addicted to narcotics.

I have to admit, it’s an interesting concept. Several of the plots Starr designs for the superheroes make total sense. The conversation two minor characters have about the state of the team speedster Vector’s brain and processing abilities is one I’ve absolutely had with my friends about similar characters, and it’s fun to see these plot lines and “what if…” scenarios explored. Even though this comic is about Marcus Greenberg, I’d be interested to see a comic about Vector that explored more of these themes.

But Marcus Greenberg is the main character, and he’s interesting enough by himself. He narrates the entire comic and the glimpses inside his thought processes and overall state of mind never fail to be interesting. Greenberg will gladly torture, mindwipe, extort, and kill in order to get the job done, and his narration is mostly free of self-reflection or struggles with morality. He knows exactly where he stands, what he needs to do, and what he needs others to do. He never regrets what he does, and he’s willing to sacrifice everyone around him as long as he survives. He’s very smart, very vicious, and ruthless. The only line he refuses to cross is child murder.

Still, by the end of the comic, I was left trying to puzzle out if he was actually evil. He’s certainly an opportunist and clearly insufferable, but I still haven’t quite made up my mind if he’s truly evil, or just driven exclusively by self-interest.

Ultimately, that’s the point of this comic. The world is not black-and-white. A superhero may perform heroic acts, but it doesn’t make them a hero. A former Navy SEAL may get his hands dirty cleaning up a superhero’s mess, but what if that’s the lesser of two evils?

This comic gave me a lot to think about. If you’re looking to fill an anti-hero-shaped hole in your collection, or if you’re looking for something that’s more gritty than a Batman trade, I’d recommend it. Keep in mind that it is not at all suitable for young readers—the language is foul, there are a couple of torture scenes, a prostitute is murdered, and there’s a full panel showing her bloody corpse. It is also not a comic book to buy if you’re looking for diverse characters—I counted only three women who speak more than once, and there are only a few characters of color.

Even with all of these qualifiers, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued about where The Consultant will go in its next volume.

The Consultant, vol. 1
by Jason Steer
Art by Daniel Maine, Francesca Zambon
ISBN: 9781632293527
Action Lab Entertainment, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: (18+)

  • India

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! India is a recent MLIS graduate. She works at a university library, where she helps purchase books for the graphic novel collection. Her love of comics began when she picked up an issue of Uncanny X-Men in high school, and she’s been a die-hard Marvel fan ever since. She’ll read anything from superheroes to small press, and she’s always looking for a new webcomic. When she’s not working or studying, she likes to cook, hike, brunch, and spout long-winded historiography rants.

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