Review: Desperate Outlaws Battle For Survival In ‘Geiger’ #1

‘Set in the years after a nuclear war ravaged the planet, desperate outlaws battle for survival in a world of radioactive chaos. Out past the poisoned wasteland lives a man even the Nightcrawlers and Organ People fear. Some name him Joe Glow, others call him the Meltdown Man. But his name…is Geiger.’

The story goes, Geiger used to have a family. When the big one hit, he sent them all into a bomb shelter, but sacrificed himself topside so they’d make it safely. That was twenty years ago. These days, the man’s a glowing superhero who keeps to himself and chases anyone off who gets too near. That’s the story anyway. But being twenty years after the fact, with no firsthand account, seems like that may have been embellished in the retelling. 

This thing literally kicks off with a campfire story, so it stands to reason at least some of it comes from the imaginations of the folks passing the story down. The dude’s name is Geiger. What are the odds that’s an actual legal name, shared with Johannes Wilhelm “Hans” Geiger, the man who invented the handheld ionizing radiation detector, and not some cool superhero nickname?

Geoff Johns sets up a really interesting origin fable for the glow-in-the-dark superhero no one wants to run up against. It’s one of those things that’s almost too perfect. If this turns out to be the actual set of circumstances that created Geiger, I’m honestly going to be a little disappointed. Everything fits together too nicely. There are none of the rough edges that get worn down over time to make a hero. And that name thing? That’s a hell of a coincidence.

Artwork by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson is perfectly grungy. Not quite Mad Max, but nearly. There’s a layer of grit and wear on all the exposed equipment and vehicles. The interior of Geiger’s home looks like it’s been furnished with comfort items scavenged from rubble. It tracks. 

First issues are tricky business. Johns and Frank did a hell of a lot of worldbuilding in these first pages, and everything fits reasonably well. The flashback is just a little too tidy for my taste, but like I said, unreliable narrator and all, so there’s room to hack that up a bit later down the line.

There’s a fair amount of the gravity you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland superhero love story, but it’s also peppered with humor. I laughed out loud a few times in the closing sequence. That last reveal is straight out of Despicable Me.

Geiger #1, Image Comics, 07 April 2021. Written by Geoff Johns, art by Gary Frank, color by Brad Anderson, letters by Rob Leigh.

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