I have to admit, I kind of like the idea behind Top Cow's "Pilot Season." The idea of trying out six books and seeing which two have the best response before greenlighting ongoing series for them seems like a smart move - although the cynic in me wonders whether the voting is going to end up rigged, or whether the series that get the nod to continue are going to have the same creative teams - and the choice of creators on some of the books is both interesting and potentially exciting. Take the team behind RIPCLAW: PILOT SEASON #1; Jorge Lucas may be the kind of artist that you could've imagined on a spin-off from Marc Silvestri's Cyberforce, but Vertigo darling Jason Aaron is a more unusual choice for writer (A Wolverine fill-in aside, isn't this his first non-Vertigo work?). Together, they come up with a strange, kind of patchwork, revamp of the character and concept that works perhaps better as a pilot for a series than a story in and of itself.
(Which means that it's a successful execution of the Pilot Season idea, maybe, but not necessarily a successful comic book, if that makes sense. But I'm maybe getting ahead of myself.)
The off-kilter humor of the writing is something that seemed too off-kilter in the opening of the book, for some reason - The initial over-the-top scenes of "one man against the entire underworld," including traditional "How many people...?" "Just one, sir" exchange, read as cliche at first, and it wasn't until the first hint at Ripclaw's new status quo that it all seemed to fall into place for me... so much so, in fact, that I went from thinking that it was a half-assed story that wrote down to its audience to wondering just where Aaron would take the character if he got the chance to continue. To say more might ruin the McGuffin of the new take, but suffice to say that it's something that makes the character less of a Wolverine rip-off by using an idea that I'm sure someone has already used for Wolverine.
Lucas's art is a plus for the book, though; his artwork - showing influences from (cover artist) Tony Moore, Moebius, and Silvestri, amongst others (which is both less pretty and more generic than it sounds, however) - manages to hit the right tone of being serious and dead-pan at once, and also matches Aaron's script in the almost-pitch-perfect-but-not-quite stakes. They'd be a pair worth paying attention to, if the book were to continue.
And that's maybe what it comes down to. Would I read more issues of a Ripclaw book, based on this pilot? Yeah, probably, to be honest; it brings a different tone to the Top Cow books than what they've already got, and if the team decided to take things even further off-kilter based on what worked for me in this issue, it could be a quirkily successful addition to the line. A guarded Good from me, but what do you think?