24 Underground #1 is the first issue of a new series intended to bridge the gap between what was once the final season of Fox’s 24 and its upcoming revival as a “limited event” series, showing us what series hero Jack Bauer has been up to in the intervening years since he was labeled a terrorist and enemy of the state and forced to flee the country for which he’d sacrificed so much. It’s hard to imagine such a series would carry much appeal to any but diehard 24 fans. Unfortunately, there’s not much to this first issue, at least, to either entice anyone else, or please those fans.
The story begins, as so many “Jack’s off the grid” stories do, with Jack living a domestic life with a woman under an assumed identity. This time, he’s in Russia, and working at an industrial plant with the woman’s brother, Petro. When a third sibling runs afoul of the Russian mob, they come after Petro, and Jack offers up his prodigious skills in dealing with these kinds of toughs to help out his new-found family. Before Jack can say “damn it!” (actually, just after he says it…), things take a turn, and it’s suddenly clear Jack has stumbled into a bigger situation than he expected. All in all, it’s standard 24 material, comforting perhaps to returning fans, but lacking much of a hook for readers old or new. Art comes from Michael Gaydos, who, not given much to draw in the way of action, eschews realism and likeness for mood and atmosphere (his Kiefer Sutherland is recognizable enough, and it also helps that Jack is the only character in the story with a pre-established look).
The biggest flaw of this issue is the lack of hook. It begins, as mentioned, in a fairly perfunctory and expected way (Exiled Jack’s certainly not doing anything he hasn’t done before) and carries on through the expected beats of this kind of story (Jack’s simple life is threatened but he steps up any way to help out his new family, things get complicated). Brisson ends the issue on a pair of cliffhangers but, without giving either away, neither is nearly as shocking as they should be, and, in fact, read pretty much exactly like the kind of cliffhanger endings these kinds of stories always get.
The idea of a series set between seasons of the show is a good one, creating the kind of ground perfect for exploration by a licensed series like this, and with Gaydos, the series has an artist who can make the most of the material if given the opportunity. But in order for this series to work, it needs a stronger hook, something to make it, if not distinctly 24, then at least more than a routine espionage story with a character who looks like Kiefer Sutherland. For now, that’s all it is.
I’m not sure if the Russian mobster who recognizes Jack at the end of the story is meant to be recognizable as someone (possibly one of the Drazens from the show’s first season?) viewers of the show have encountered before. If it is one of the Drazens, or someone else, that would make for a better hook, but if it is, then the art and writing needed to have made it more clear who exactly this person is.
The other cliffhanger at the end involves the local CIA office recognizing Jack. While this opens up avenues for future issues, and makes perfect sense, it’s once again not the most shocking ending nor original idea, and isn’t enough on which to hang the story.