Written by Marty Nozzarella
Art by Chris Johnson
Mere Mortal is the heroic story of a man with two first names and zero superpowers, Joe Marcus. In a futuristic Earth, where everyone has at least a little bit of power, Joe was born to a couple of Level Ten Powered heroes and yet has no powers at all. He is an aspiring cook forced to ply his trade at a strip club because powered cooks get all the advantages and perks, and lives in a run-down apartment with his childhood best friend who is now a cop. Life gets interesting for Joe when a villain team with a history tied to him breaks free and looks for payback. Will they kill him? Will he run and hide? Will he get into cooking school? These are the questions Joe faces.
The writing is pretty damn clever, with solid dialogue and a good, steady pace. Things get unraveled a bit awkwardly at first as Marty tries hard not to hit us with tons of exposition, and suffers a bit as a result. In the early stages, not enough is explained to make everything clear, but in time the pieces come together. These early bumps in the road get smoothed out and the story moves along at a better rhythm for it. The characters each have unique personalities and voices - something lacking in many webcomics - and generally stay true to character as well.
The art is stylized - not at all what you might expect for a hero comic - but fits this twisted take on the genre. The switch from color to black and white does nothing to harm it, and in fact gives it a more gritty, indie look and feel. Expression are solid, backgrounds are detailed, and basically it looks good enough to print. I've seen far worse from publishers like Image, believe me.
There are a few things holding it back, though, and one of them is crucial: fight scenes.
To be blunt, the action sequences read like stereo instructions. Each panel cuts angles - and often pairings, in group fights - completely fucking up any sense of continuity and flow. I don't know if it's Marty trying too hard to be flashy in his scripting of these scenes, or Chris is trying too hard to make it all seem like it's happening at once, but every single fight scene confuses the hell out of me, visually. Did Joe run through the guy at the club? Can someone draw a diagram for the fight scene in Joe's appartment? I had to read them several times, and I still couldn't tell you exactly what happens. It's all a big mess.
My other complaint is if you're going to have characters that are strippers, and actually draw them wearing skimpy clothing, they need to be, you know, sexy. The women can look a bit manly in the faces at times, and they all have the same exact body, and it isn't a very appealing one. I've never seen so many strippers with the exact same rack size and that rack size happens to be a modest B-cup at best. Chris draws men of many builds, sizes and ethnicities, but the women all look fairly alike. I'm not bemoaning the lack of bodacious tatas (I get plenty in my own comic, thanks!) but if you make a point of having strippers in your comic, at least one of them should look like something other than a runway model looking starved and malnourished. Especially when their best friend is an aspiring cook. I know strippers often do speed, but these girls must be tweaking their tits off to be this skinny after he feeds them all the time.
So yeah. The big thing hindering Mere Mortal is the plotting of the fight scenes. I asked myself early on why this comic isn't being published, and then I saw the first fight and figured out why. With work, it could be, though. Seriously. The premise is unique and the writing and art are pretty solid in most other respects. That's more than a lot of comics can say.