Ten months ago, the Richard Roe murders shocked the city of Pittsburgh. In the months since, the killings have sparked a dangerous political movement, copycat killers, and a masked vigilante who’s still determined to hold the powerful accountable. Not a symbol. Not a hero. They could be anyone. They’re NO/ONE.Superstar writers KYLE HIGGINS (RADIANT BLACK, Nightwing) and BRIAN BUCCELLATO (Chicken Devil, Detective Comics) and rising-star artist GERALDO BORGES (Nightwing) bring you the extra-length first chapter of a true crime superhero drama in its own corner of the MASSIVE-VERSE!
PLUS! The story continues in “Who is No/One,” a monthly companion podcast starring RACHAEL LEIGH COOK (She’s All That) and PATTON OSWALT (Netflix’s The Sandman, Minor Threats, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.)!
Starting a mystery/noir can be difficult due to the variety of set-ups needed to develop the world and characters. Still, it needs to construct the mystery and its elements. NO/ONE #1, a new, 10-issue maxi-series, has a leg up thanks to its status as the latest entry into the Massive-Verse. The interconnected superhero universe came from writer Kyle Higgins and started with Image Comic’s Radiant Black. The world of the Massive Verse is filled with aliens, advanced technology, and natural magic, all of which make the central conceit of a hacktivist vigilante a natural addition to the universe.
That streamlining of the titular character paves the way for the rest of the issue’s plot, nature, and tone establishment. The problem – written by Kyle Higgins and Brian Buccellato with art from Geraldo Borges, colors by Mark Englert, and lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – opens on the murder of a high profile industrialist in Pittsburg, his body found at a high function gala. The detectives on the case reveal this is the most recent copycat killing in a string of deaths. The murder throws the audience into a vast conspiracy of revenge, death, and vigilante justice.
The vigilante NO/ONE targets the corrupt in Pittsburg and doxxes them to the public, wanting to hold them accountable for their crimes against the city. These targets were murdered individually within a day of NO/ONE’s doxxing. “Richard Roe,” aka Aaron Kern, is awaiting trial for the murders after confessing to the killings (along with possessing his brother’s drugs), meaning this new victim has suffered at the hands of a 3rd copycat. After the cold open, it’s revealed that the difference in this crime is a note was left behind that states the killer is the actual Roe. Kern’s father, Ben, is a leading officer on the police force and has been ostracized due to his son’s status as Roe, while his brother Michael is living on the streets and using again.
Pittsburgh and its community find themselves split on their thoughts about the murders and NO/ONE’s actions, which leads to one of the most exciting elements of the story. 2 journalists, reporter Julia Page and metro editor Teddy Barstow, are tasked with reporting on NO/ONE and the Richard Roe story through a new podcast venture for the Pittsburgh Ledger.
The podcast spills out from the page and comes to life thanks to Kyle Higgins directing an actual radio production. The podcast, Who Is NO/ONE, which releases alongside every issue, features Rachael Leigh Cook as Julia and Patton Oswalt as Teddy. The podcast digs deeper into the lore and public opinion from before the story, alongside the mystery unfolding across each issue. It’s a fascinating decision and makes sense in the context of how much material the first issue is trying to cover.
Higgins and Buccellato are no strangers to street-level mysteries, having both worked on Gotham-related books like Detective Comics and Nightwing. The issue throws a lot of characters and moving pieces at the audience, to the point that the backmatter – Wikipedia articles and a timeline of events written as though in-universe along with a cast list that resembles a game of Guess Who? – and accompanying podcast feel more required than suggested. This creates a disorienting experience on the first read-through but in a way that feels more intentional than careless.
The unrelenting pace of the writing combined with the massive cast list rewards readers that go back over the issue, bolstered by the additional context the podcast provides. In the same breath, the podcast highlights the biggest flaw of the opening point: the lack of a central POV character. In the mystery stories that NO/ONE is riffing on, even those with an ensemble, a ride-along character offers a way into the account, grounding mystery and clues with a personal stake in the plot. Here, the lack of buy-in makes the story feel like a corkboard full of hints and red strings, making the players and pieces visible on a macro level, but something is missing in the micro, from story beat to beat. This is a shock since most Massive Verse is built on unique and resonant perspectives.
Borges’s art helps to overcome some of the lacking elements of the writing, infusing the noir tone and aesthetic through the combined use of formalistic elements and heavy inks. Borges plays with shadows and perspective to convey an aura of mystery plaguing Pittsburg in the same way as the falling snow in the cold open. In an issue with little action, only featuring one well-crafted fight scene that leads to a surprise death, it’s a testament to Borges’s skill that every page is a commanding and compelling read.
The art also leans into the “talky” nature of the script, and it never falters or feels overwhelmed by the text on a page. This is partly thanks to Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering, which is clean and clear with subtle influences from both the technology and print mediums that the book oscillates between. Using simple yet rhythmic pages, Borges’s ability to lay out a page is the key to maintaining that balance. The cadence set by moving from a wide panel to close-ups and back to the wide is repeated throughout the issue but ensures that there is never a doubt about what matters in a scene or who is speaking in extended bits of dialogue.
Englert’s palette is filled with blues and grays that convey a city that feels trapped between good and evil and is a great way to signal not everything is as it seems morally or narratively in the issue. The coloring goes hand in hand with Borges’s art to ensure the book feels grounded even when NO/ONE is on the page, playing up the noir angle with plenty of inky blacks and shadows. Even when more color gets to pop, like in the book’s only action sequence (seen below), it’s never more than a few fleeting moments. That decision ensures that the tone never shifts from the mystery angle, promising this is more in line with a detective story rather than the high-flying adventures of Radiant Black or Inferno Girl Red.
On a technical level, the podcast matches the level of craft in the comic, with a strong sense of sound design, feeling like it would slot right into the line-up at NPR. Its most tremendous success is selling the characters to its audience, doing so more than any sequence in the comic, making it feel like a requirement. Julia feels like she should be the POV character of the comic after listening to this episode, but that isn’t clear if a casual reader picks up the book without any care or interest in the podcast. A bit of her dynamic with Teddy comes through in their brief scene together in the issue, but by giving life to the characters, it becomes a significant selling point for the podcast.
NO/ONE #1 is fun and shows a lot of promise, but finds itself sometimes buckling under its narrative ambitions. In a desire for a transmedia experience, the issue loses focus on its characters, choosing to establish the plot and tone, while leaving players on the most surface level. Higgins and Buccellato’s script remains lean in light of this, moving between beats without any drag which comes in a large part thanks to Borges’s concise compositions and strong inking.
Those elements feed the noir aesthetic of the book and allow style to overtake the cracks of the book. Englert and Otsmane-Elhaou’s work on the coloring and lettering respectively reinforce those noir elements, playing up the hacker elements along with hard-hitting reporting. NO/ONE #1 and its accompanying podcast Who is NO/ONE is a fun read, and an even more compelling listen, that scratches an itch for street-level, noir-themed superhero mystery.
NO/ONE #1: Shots to the Heart (And Who’s to Blame?)
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10