The Holy Roller #1 features a story by Rick Remender, Andy Samberg and Joe Trohman. The book is published by Image Comics. Artwork is by Roland Boschi, colours by Moreno Dinisio and letters by Rus Wooton. Main cover art (left) is by Boschi and Dinisio.
The Holy Roller #1 is available now, in print and on digital platforms where all good comic books are sold.
To care for his ailing father, pro bowler Levi Coen is forced to quit his dream job and return to his hometown, which he soon discovers has been overrun by Neo-Nazis! With only his bowling ball collection to defend himself, Levi becomes THE HOLY ROLLER, a trick bowling ball-wielding Jewish superhero battling to liberate his home and bowl a perfect game against crime! Kingpin meets Inglourious Basterds meets Batman (that old chestnut) with equal parts action and humor.
The Holy Roller arrives as we find ourselves at a cultural crossroads. There’s no escaping rise of public antisemitism or the rhetoric of discrimination in the press. Events in the Middle East continue to reverberate around the globe. But it’s not hard to find examples of incredulous and at times reprehensible behaviour in our own back yards. So here we find a trio of writers including Rick Remender (Deadly Class), Andy Samberg (the actor known for Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Joe Trohman (guitarist in Fall Out Boy) team up to tackle civil unrest in America head on.
The series doesn’t set out to preach to its audience. In fact its tone feels somewhat akin to the kind of comedy which Samberg would appear in if it were a movie or series. It’s clever social satire underneath a layer of clumsily written college humour. But faults aside, one shouldn’t discount the series for its attempt to shine a spotlight on real world issues.
Levi is the son of a professional bowler, struggling to live in his father’s shadow. Opening in a flashback to 1986 we see the contrasting lives of both father and son. Whilst David is winning yet another trophy as the OG Holy Roller, Levi hides away in the shadows of the arcade. Levi’s attempts to befriend Amy, the daughter of the bowling alley’s owner, fall flat when her brother, Clyde steps in as the archetypal bully. In the present day Levi must return home to see his ailing father and finds himself quickly catching up on events in his hometown.
For the most part The Holly Roller works hard to setup Levi and position him ready for where the story intends to take him. This double-length debut makes use of the extra pages to painstakingly lay out his personality before thrusting him in to any action. The issue is that a number of books more comedic elements feel clumsily written. When we reach the present day Levi is on a Greenpeace ship where there are jokes about devil sticks, kombucha and getting stoned. It takes the book from social commentary to social satire. Levi feels less like an accidental hero in the making and more like a caricature. It’s not hard to imagine this may turn off some readers.
It’s a shame because the moment Levi arrives back in Ohio the writing pivots and the biting criticism kicks in. From billboards promoting gun ownership to the former synagogue now a drive through. There’s plenty for the reader to sink their teeth in to as The Holy Roller seeks to provoke political discussion. There’s also the thoughtfully written relationship between the adult Levi and his terminally ill father. Moments between the two characters are approached far more delicately.
When Levi chooses to leave his old life and his father behind (again) he ends up back at the bowling alley. Here The Holy Roller begins unfold is Neo-Nazi villains and the book enters vigilante origin story. There is something very cinematic about its storytelling. Though make no mistake, The Holy Roller is far more Kick-Ass than it is Batman Begins.
Roland Boschi provides the artwork and brings a cool, indie comic vibe to the book. The Holy Roller is certainly edgier than most mainstream comic books. There’s no doubt it will provide a great alternative to super hero fans who are looking to step away from the likes of Marvel and DC. The action feels visceral, punches land with real weight and helps drive home the message of the book.
A solid start to this brand new original series. Despite some oddly written humour The Holy Roller is an important story neatly wrapped up in a new superhero narrative.