by Spencer Irwin
This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
First issues have an almost impossible amount of work to do. They have to introduce (or reintroduce) the lead character, their supporting cast, their unique perspective, the series’ premise, and they have to do it all within 20 pages. Every creative team has their own unique approach to this task, and for Gail Simone and David Baldeon in Domino 1, that approach largely comes down to dialogue and internal monologue.
It’s not a bad approach, given Simone’s penchant for distinctive, snappy dialogue and unique character voices. Thanks to Neena Thurman’s — a.k.a. the luck-based mercenary Domino’s — constantly running internal monologue, and to the bevy of situations Simone and Baldeon place Neena in throughout the issue, I feel like I know Domino rather well as a character. We learn about her current relationships with her mercenary partners, Outlaw and Diamondback. We learn about her traumatic origins and about how her appearance is a constant reminder of that past. Most importantly, we learn about Domino’s complicated luck-related powers, and her even more complicated relationship with them.
On the next page, Domino goes on to describe the sensation she gets when her powers activate, the feeling of a ghost rat running up and down her spine under her skin. Combined with the above page’s monologue, it shows readers that Domino’s powers are unsettling and mercurial, something she’s not entirely comfortable with even as she consistently places her life in their hands. That’s a compelling relationship to base a book on, especially with her powers seemingly failing her as the issue ends.
When trying to impart this much information there’s always the risk of coming across as expository or straight-up info-dumping, but outside of one awkward sequence on the opening page, Simone avoids this by dropping Neena’s thoughts and insights in bits and pieces throughout the issue, throughout multiple scenarios, and by making sure they’re accompanied by plenty of jokes and asides. Neena’s internal monologue may let us know how she feels about her abilities or her past, but she also gripes about her partners and complains about her costume riding up. These kind of details make her characters feel real, and not like vehicles for exposition. In an issue where Simone needs to impart a lot of information, she’s found remarkably effective, natural ways to do so.
With so much “telling” going on, though, there are moments when the issue starts to feel a little overstuffed. Neena’s birthday party is a fun opportunity to work in some truly enjoyable cameos, but they can sometimes feel nonessential or obligatory — they do little to flesh out Neena, which is a shame when one of the ongoing threads of the issue is her complicated relationship with being a mutant.
Neena’s going through a lot because she’s a mutant, and she wears those scars (both psychic and physical) permanently, but she also knows that she’s much better off than many other mutants, yet has done little to help them. I’m going to assume that Adelbert/Greywing’s presence is going to help explore this aspect of Neena more closely, but it feels like a bit of a waste to bring this up, plop Neena in the middle of a room full of just about every major mutant character Marvel owns, and then not explore it any further.
Likewise, while Neena cozies up to a few guests (Deadpool) and gets a bit nasty with others (her ex, Colossus), for the most part I can’t quite figure out what kind of relationship Neena has with these characters.
The line I want to zero in on here is “I do bad things for money.” Just how bad, exactly? Is Neena just being down on herself, or is she legitimately a morally questionable character — and if it’s the latter, why do so many X-Men show up to her party? I have a good idea of how Domino fights, but not really why or who for, and while more experienced X-Men fans probably already know, it feels like an essential piece of information missing from this first issue, which may be the first exposure many readers have to the character. So I suppose, as much as the dialogue and monologue can teach us about Domino in this first issue, it can’t tell us everything. Hopefully readers will continue to be treated to more answers and insights in future issues.
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