Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Michael Dowling
Release Date: 4th November, 2015
At Comic Con International in San Diego earlier this year, Vertigo Comics announced an unprecedented new slate of twelve brand new creator-owned titles, and for me personally, this might have been the one I was most excited about. Something about the premise just flat-out appealed to me. I mean, a dying, eccentric billionaire leaving his fortune to 140 random characters (geddit?) selected through social media – or rather, leaving it to however many of them are still alive at the time of his death? What’s not to love about that?
This first issue sees writer Rob Williams taking his time in establishing things, spending the bulk of the page count introducing us to a few of these ‘characters’, each utterly intriguing in their own right. We have David, a young black man trying to protect his sister and do the right thing on the streets of St. Louis; Courtney, an adrenaline junkie heiress trying to free herself from the shackles of her father’s wealth; and Ravan, a bitterly disillusioned Iranian news reporter who sees no hope left in the cruel, violent world she inhabits. Williams does a stellar job of forging an instant bond between the reader and these wonderfully complex characters, something that will undoubtedly pay off once the series kicks into high gear.
Mike Dowling does a typically high quality job with the artwork, adopting a detailed, realistic style that fans of his work on Death Sentence (of which we have many here at BCP HQ) will absolutely love. The faces of his characters are expressive, with easily recognisable emotions, from fear to exhilaration to defiance, and the page layouts give the story a smooth flow as it surges forwards. Colourist Quinton Winter also adds immeasurably to the aesthetic with his subtle palette, keeping things understated throughout.
My only real criticism of this first issue is the fact that, to this point, the solicitation info gives away way more information than the comic itself. Readers who weren’t familiar with the premise, or who missed Vertigo’s headline-grabbing announcement at SDCC, would still be a little unsure of where this series is heading, and I feel that the whole “whoever’s still alive” thing is a vital aspect of the story that this first issue doesn’t even mention. As a first issue designed to hook in new readers, this seems like a missed opportunity, but thankfully as I’m fully aware of where this story is going, you can definitely count me in for the rest of this series.
That minor niggle aside, this is still a great start to what promises to be another fantastic series from Vertigo. For a publisher with such a storied, iconic history in the comics world, it’s truly exciting to see a rejuvenation like this, with bold, ambitious storytelling featuring some of the most exciting creators on the scene today. Williams and Dowling have crafted a masterful character-based thriller here, and a story that promises to examine the full spectrum of the human condition, as well as the oddly menacing nature of social media.