Publisher: Heavy Metal
Writer: Scott Duvall
Artwork: Ralf Singh, Nic Chapuis
Release Date: 9th December, 2015
Set in the same world as the recently released British indy sci-fi movie Narcopolis, this stand-alone series from Heavy Metal introduces us to Ben Grieves, a scientist on the brink of a monumental discovery. Set in a dystopian future where drugs have been legalised and inserted into everyday society, Ben’s invention – a drug of his own that allows the user to effectively travel through time – may finally hold the key to him solving the mystery of his father’s disappearance almost two decades ago.
It’s an intriguing concept for sure, but unfortunately this first issue doesn’t do enough to really make it ‘pop’. There isn’t a sufficient emotional investment in Ben thus far for his exploits to really make much of an impact on the reader, and while things do admittedly pick up somewhat in the latter portion of the issue, the bulk of the page count here is dedicated to rambling pseudo-science rather than on much-needed character development.
Ralf Singh’s artwork, while technically sound, is a little sterile and flat in places, with an overabundance of blank backgrounds and bland facial expressions. Obviously given the futuristic setting a little sterility is perhaps called for, but aside from the occasional panel – the injection of the aforementioned drug directly into Ben’s eyeball, for instance – this is a fairly flat first issue, from a visual perspective at least. Much like the story itself, the artwork does pick up significantly near the end of the book, but for the most part Singh’s talents are restricted to illustrating calm, scientific conversation in front of plain blue walls, without being given much of an opportunity to really flex his creative muscle.
Writer Scott Duvall calls this one a “companion piece” to the movie, with each standing on their own, and in that respect, this does feel like a self-contained story. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much by having no prior knowledge of the world the series inhabits, although a little additional knowledge about Ben’s father Frank – the main protagonist of the movie – may have helped provide more of an investment in what was actually going on.
Overall, the jury is still out on Narcopolis: Continuum – for me, at least. While a time-travelling murder mystery set in a dystopian world where drugs are legalised for corporate gain is an undoubtedly intriguing backdrop, the actual story being told – as well as the characters themselves – feels more than a little bland to this point. I’ll still be checking out the second chapter, as the pieces are definitely here for a compelling sci-fi yarn, but based on this first issue, I’m going to be approaching it with caution.