Writer: Dennis Liu
Artist: Peter Chung
Everybody loves a great villain but what about the trusted assistant behind the scenes really doing the heavy lifting? The henchmen often known more for comedic relief than their legitimate contributions to nefarious misdeeds? Just like CEOs don’t make companies run without the able assistance of, well, assistants whether executive or administrative, a good supervillain can’t properly threaten Gotham City and make Batman earn his rep without their own assistants. Hot off of Raising Dion, writer Dennis Liu aims to put the spotlight on the henchman in his new work Partizan.
Partizan is the story of Justin Jin, a young man who just happens to be the younger brother and assistant of the world’s most evil super-villain, Taihei, who is locked in an ongoing battle with the corporation Celes. As Justin notes though, every villain is the hero of their own story so there is a bit of room for sympathy for Taihei and his struggle as it shows the line between “hero” and “villain” often comes down to the perspective of the viewer. For his part, Justin represents something of an alternative view, understanding of the issues but wanting to move on from decades-old beef.
After this bit of backstory we see that Tahei is struggling with Celes’ armored super-soldier Cereus- the “hero” of the book- and to even the odds Justin is pressed into service to go undercover at the company in the one role the constant underachiever (in his family’s eyes, at least) does seem to excel in, an assistant. While initially hesitant, it is here that Justin’s personal goals in life, often hindered by his family’s struggle, begin to come to light including a burgeoning relationship with the night security guard Kira. The story closes with a revelation that Justin might be more than just the henchman’s assistant here.
Liu tells an engaging story here that takes conventional superhero concepts and provides a fresh view of them by simply changing the vantage point. Justin is a likable protagonist who one might ordinarily find being the hero in a story like this but in the role the character plays here, we get a nuanced look at the classic good vs evil narrative. Calling back to Liu’s previous work Raising Dion and his commitment to diversity, the Asian American background of Justin and his family plays a crucial role in the story tying into the source of the struggle between the Jins and Celes.
Peter Chung’s art is interesting with an overall look that is unique in its painterly style. The color palette is very pleasing to the eye with an excellent job of spotlighting different scenes with a mix of warm and cool colors. The letters though are a bit of a mixed bag, while dialogue balloons and narrative boxes are generally well placed the spacing within the balloons is often a bit too tight. All in all, though the entire package comes together quite nicely giving Liu another winner!
William Satterwhite is the creator of the superhero webcomic Stealth and a freelance designer, internet consultant and illustrator living in Douglasville, Ga. His professional website can be found at www.williamsatterwhite.info.