You might think that the debut issue of a comicbook called The Answer! would focus on introducing the character with the same name. But what drives The Answer himself (or herself or itself) is still the biggest question at the end of this issue. Luckily, the character we do meet in full is so strong, and the little bit we do learn about our titular hero so interesting and/or action-packed, that remaining in the dark about what the hell is going on is in no way detrimental.
The real star of the title so far is librarian and puzzle enthusiast Devin Mackenzie. Working alone in a research library after hours, she solves almost instantly the complicated puzzle her mother sent her for her birthday, and it leads to her getting caught up in...something. The solution of the first puzzle takes her to the website of The Apeiron, which is some kind of self-help cult, based on the little bit we see from one of their seminars. Their site, for whatever reason, offers sixty-two increasingly difficult puzzles, and by the time Devin successfully solves them all there is a group of five masked gunmen trying to kill her, and The Answer is already on scene to keep her safe. How he knew to save her, who the gunmen are and what they want, and the truth behind The Apeiron are still unknowns, but based on the name of the book, I'm guessing we'll learn everything soon enough.
Dennis Hopless' script, which comes from a story he co-created with artist Mike Norton, hums along at a nice crisp pace without being rushed. Devin's intelligence, independence, and humor are solidified within the first five pages. She's not the world's most likable protagonist, inasmuch as she's just the tiniest bit full of herself, but she backs it up by being just as smart and quick-witted as she claims, and there is an innocence to her that's incredibly endearing. Though not exactly built for the madness in which she inadvertently involves herself, I have no doubt she'll be able to handle it. She's sure of herself and resourceful enough to roll with the punches, with the possible exception of any actual physical violence. Hopefully The Answer will continue to keep her protected from that.
Because that dude can obviously deal with violence. He brutally and mercilessly puts down three men who are trying to rob a gas station, even when it means firing a gun through the legs of a hostage or blowing up the gas station itself. He does not seem to have much regard for the property of the innocent or the lives of the guilty. He's merely getting a job done in the most efficient way possible. To some extent, this is speculation on my part, because unlike Devin, we never get inside The Answer's head. But his actions consistently send the same message: he is a ruthless crimefighter with no time to waste. There is also an apparent element of immortality, since we watch him get blasted point blank in the face with an assault rifle on one page, and see him on a bus with Devin the next. So there's heaps to be learned about The Answer, and I reckon Devin's the exact right person to discover it.
Mike Norton's art is reliable as ever. He does a lot of subtle facial stuff, most notably with Devin. Her focus and curiosity are clear, as is the joy she derives from all the puzzle solving, but he can just as easily display her crushing fear when the shit hits the fan. I also loved the work he did on the guy who acts as The Apeiron's mouthpiece (and possible founder), who delivers a typical self-help speech that says nothing while simultaneously promising everything. It's tightly written by Hopeless, but Norton is the one who brings it all the way home with the trustworthy confidence that is undercut but a smugness and self-righteousness that's obvious to anyone who cares to look for it. It's exactly the right combination for the man who I am guessing will be a (if not the) major villain before this story is through.
The Answer is the best single character, though, despite being featureless in the face. His design is so simple but still intimidating, and somehow even without a face, his deep confidence and competence shine through brilliantly. He holds himself sturdily and moves without hesitation, and it makes him easy to trust and root for right away. And his words are scarce and deliberate, which adds to the sense that he always knows exactly what he's doing. Devin is going to be the voice of uncertainty and fear in this book. The title character, as is fitting for someone with his moniker, doesn't come across as the kind to have doubts.
Hopeless and Norton seem equally self-assured when it comes to this project. They have obviously taken the time to get into the meaty details of their cast and world, and though what we get here is but the earliest introduction, everything is so enjoyable and everyone so interesting that I can't wait for the next installment. Honestly, I forgot I was reading a mini-series, because the story and characters set up here feel right now like they have legs to go on indefinitely. I may be singing a different tune by the time this all wraps up, but after issue #1, The Answer! has my full attention.