Threshold #1 is tightly packed and a lot of fun. The plot of the main story, "The Hunted," is not altogether original, but it isn't directly derivative of anything that comes to mind, either. And there is a lot of room for the idea to grow and blossom into something great. An entire planet trying to hunt down and kill a mere 27 "contestants" could get repetitive and old, but the thread of those 27 people trying to organize themselves into a unified resistance movement definitely opens the doors for more interesting things. Whatever happens in the future, though, this debut issue had a ton of action and introduced numerous characters, all of which served to bring me back for the next installment before even getting to the back-up story.
Writer Keith Giffen may be trying to introduce one too many things here. We meet like five contestants on the show, and while some of them have fascinating details (like the Green Lantern whose ring is in his chest) we don't spend enough time with any of them to fully understand what they are all about. Still, these quick intros are fine for a first issue, especially because they take place in the midst of a lot of running through sci-fi city streets and fighting angry mobs and other such high-quality entertainment. Similarly, we get only a brief look at the sluglike alien who apparently runs this twisted, murderous, planet-wide reality TV show, but it's just enough of a taste to want to come back for a bigger bite next time. We don't know his history, but we know what he is up to in the present and how callous his attitude is about the whole thing, and though, again, it's not the freshest take on a villain (shades of Mojo to be sure) it's still a good time and an interesting character.
The Larfleeze back-up story is the stronger section, though. Being able to narrow in on a single character instead of trying to explain an entirely new setting and situation allows Giffen to do some deeper characterization and, truth be told, have a somewhat more complicated plot. The pages where Larfleeze recounts his life were maybe a bit unecessary from my point of view, but they would of course be helpful to anyone new to the Orange Lantern, and Giffen finds a logical and funny enough reason for it in-story that I certainly don't mind. It's more natural by far than the opening page of "The Hunted" which is an info dump for the ages. And the Larfleeze stuff that comes after his autobiographical speech is perfect for the character, unexpected, and intriguing. It ends on a note that is as humorous as it is sad, and if I wasn't in for issue #2 after the opening story, by the end of this one I was absolutely committed.
Scott Kolins' artwork on the back-up story is a bit better than Tom Raney's in the beginning, too. It's not that Raney does a bad job. He balances the grimness of the story with the flashiness of its setting expertly, and though his characters' faces are inconsistent and sometimes misshapen, they are also always extremely expressive and distinct. Not without its stumbles and bumbles, but generally clear and serviceable art for a story with so much going on and so many people involved.
Kolins' Larfleeze, though, makes me wish he could get his own ongoing series. It's not just the hungry greed in his eyes, but the rage that comes with it boiling underneath. His fangs and claws are menacing on their own, yet as a whole he is not all that scary, or anyway he's as funny-looking as he is terrifying, if not more so. And that's exactly what I want out of Larfleeze. He exists in this weird space between clown and monster, and it's never been more immediately obvious (that I've seen) than it is here with Kolins on art. Having the calmer, smoother Stargraves to bounce Larfleeze off of didn't hurt none, either.
Though I wasn't blown out of the water by Threshold #1, it has undoubtedly won me over as a continuing reader for the time being. Two good stories with solid art, strong humor, and loads of potential, both being written by a legend and drawn by two very different but talented artists.