I've already done it with a number of series since the end of November, with series like the Flash Brightest Day and Hellboy: The Wild Hunt gone while Abnett and Lanning's Heroes for Hire staying.
A few weeks ago, while riding the bus to work (which I said I'd stop doing and swap for my bike, but the blasted British weather), I finished reading Nathan Edmondshon and Mitch Gerads' the Activity, a sixteen issue military series which was released through Image starting mid-2012 and finishing late 2014 (and yes, based on that math, there were some big delays during the last few issues).
The Activity follows the exploits of the Intelligence Support Activity, a top secret black ops unit of the American Military who take on the missions which require a level of problem solving no one else can do (in a very A-Team fashion). This series follows the exploits of the ISA's primary 5-man unit, Team Omaha, as they partake in hostage rescues, enemy captures, traitor's executions and beyond in the (secret) service of their country.
I remember when I first bought this series it was due, in large part, to Nathan Edmondshon's name being on the cover. With the (then) recent conclusion of Who is Jake Ellis? and that series impressing me greatly, the fact that he almost immediately followed it with this ongoing series with a beautifully compelling cover just made the Activity too much of a must buy. This, to my recollection, made the purchase of this series something I didn't regret, despite some long delays between the later issues, it turned out to be a very pleasant read.
Jump to the present and I'm happy to say that the same still rings true, despite some more obvious problems cropping up (possibly because now I'm a more cynical individual).
Unlike my past memory, the Activity doesn't have the best start to its run with the stories contained in its first couple of issues feeling a bit clunky and lack in its ability to draw me in. This is possibly down to the writers attempt to get comfortable with this new world while simultaneously trying to give the reader all the pertinent information. Unfortunately, for me, while it succeeds in telling about all the players, it struggles to capture like it did all those years ago.
Fortunately, from issue 3 this changes. The writing seems to find its footing and the self enclosed stories with the bare minimum of ongoing plot thread feels a lot more fluid and engaging. Even after the concept changes and a more overall 'big bad' villain appears in the latter half of the series, I found Edmondshon's writing remained very compelling with some great, detailed characters who all share the spotlight with no single main character (which I think is a rarity in comics these days), one of whom I'm kinda sad to see go midway through.
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the done-in-one format that remains predominant through the run, as it feels like a breathe of fresh air compared to other books, being a better example of being able to pick up any issue and enjoying it without missing too much information. That said, this line of thinking isn't across the board as there are two flashback issues (ironically drawn by covering artist Marc Laming) which I really struggled to get behind, as they seem to lack the more compelling state of the current day issues. However, I don't think this is do with the art, but simply a change from the writing style employed which just didn't sit right with me and isn't actually from a lack of talent, merely a personal preference.
Speaking of the art, I absolutely love the artwork provided in this series. Mitch Gerads, whom I hadn't ever heard of prior to this series, offers an incredible gorgeous and realistic take on this military world which looks incredibly fitting as well as it seems to give an (presumably) accurate portrayal of the military while still making the visuals compelling. What gives it an edge though is Gerads' use of computer-like location boxes to really sell the hi-tech notion of the series. While I had never heard of him until this series, seeing this art again is a reminder of how he's gone on to bigger and better things like Mr Miracle.
Meanwhile, Marc Laming does an equally stellar job at filling in the gaps left by Gerads with a style not dissimilar to the main artists work. Again, I've seen little of Laming's work prior to this point (and, admittedly, I've seen little after) but I've heard a lot of praise from others for his work and the rationale behind it shows. It's a shame that I couldn't get into the stories on his issues, but my poor reception of those has little to do with the art and makes me wonder why Laming isn't on more high profile books (though, maybe he is and I don't see them).
Sadly, I found that what is a good series is brutally let down by its final issue. I recall upon issue 16's release, after many months delay, I enjoyed the issue possibly due to the issue finally arriving and the series finally resolving. However, on this occasion I got to read the series back to back and unfortunately, compared to the rest of the series, this issue just doesn't stand up. The problem I found was that it felt like both creators simply wanted to get the series finished, with the story feeling badly written and the art looking a bit rough compared to the prior issues. This led me to not get as engrossed in the issue as I had done with many of the other issues which, given it was the finale, left me on a bit of a downer. That said, on a positive note, the issue did provide a poignant send off for one of the cast which seemed slightly obvious when reading the series in its entirety though no less effective. Despite this however, the final issue left a lot to be desired as it see,ed like only a shell of the other issues in the series.
Nonetheless, the Activity does (for the most part) hold up after all these years, especially in light of the chaotic political landscape we currently see in the news. I do wish that its final issue had ended things on a high compared to what it did do but this series still kept me immersed and entertained and has me planning to keep it around (at least for now) in my collection.
And that's what these re-reads are all about.