Another high profile title from AWA Studios, Telepaths is written by J. Michael Straczynski, the well-known, fan-favourite creator of Babylon 5 – who’s carved out quite a niche in the comic book world over the last twenty-odd years. Rising Stars – the story of a group of super-powered individuals known as ‘Specials’, created in the wake of a comet falling to Earth – was his first big hit in comics, making huge waves when it was first published in 1999. Since then, Straczynski mainly became known for high profile work at Marvel, including a sometimes-controversial run on Spider-Man, an acclaimed run on Thor and even the excellent Supreme Power, his more realistic, mature take on the late Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme.

Telepaths – drawn by the ever-reliable, always impressive Steve Epting – feels like a more contemporary take on Rising Stars from the first issue. A sprawling cast of varied characters are introduced (though few are referenced by name at this stage), being shown going about their daily lives – a cop, a prisoner, a businesswoman away from home and more – until an electromagnetic disturbance, seemingly caused by a comet, causes people to black out worldwide. Amidst all the chaos that ensues, it soon becomes clear that some people have developed telepathic abilities…

Though the setup – with the comet awakening superhuman abilities in a certain percentage of the population – feels a little like a callback to the origin in Straczynski’s Rising Stars, the tone is much more grounded and naturalistic in Telepaths. It has a very cinematic feel, which starts with the floating head cast shot on the cover, strongly evoking modern movie poster design. It’s very dialogue-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing; there’s quite a bit of insight given to many characters, thanks to this and the fairly measured pace of the issue.

Epting’s realistic art style suits the material perfectly, but doesn’t encounter the pitfalls that many more realism-based artists do, in that it never feels stiff or photo-referenced. His art perfectly depicts the character based moments as well as the sometimes large scale scenes of chaos following the disturbance.

It’s an intriguing, impressively detailed start to the series and though there’s a few niggles that arise, mostly because the cast is so sprawling – with some characters given a lot more time for their introductions to breathe, not to mention a few characters that just don’t seem particularly interesting yet – Straczynski has form in managing large casts and making them all feel of importance to a large scale, carefully planned plot. I’ve no doubt that the same thing will happen in the case of Telepaths too.

Many thanks to AWA Studios for providing a copy of Telepaths #1 for review purposes.

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