Review – Backways #1 (AfterShock Comics)

Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Eleonora Carlini
Colorist: Silvia Tidei
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Release Date: 20th December 2017

Backways is a new dark urban fantasy from Justin Jordan set in the ‘hidden nation’ wherein the lead, Anna Merrick, is drawn into magic and madness in an attempt to save a friend; but to save them from what?

At the outset I should address the elephant in the room. Sure, describing this, one can easily begin to draw parallels with Neverwhere but to compare and contrast would be grossly unfair. This really should be seen on its own merit and I must admit I’m already eager to read the next issue.

The premise is relatively simple in that someone has gone missing under mysterious circumstances and their friend is determined to find them at any cost. This search leads Anna, our strong willed and talented protagonist, into strange encounters and experiences in the places that people have forgotten or left behind.

From the synopsis, I was unsure how this story would be handled but it blends subtlety and brash in your face weirdness within quite tight pacing. Think a twisted Narnia but instead of helpful satyrs at the back of the cupboard, its flesh manipulating boogeymen from your childhood nightmares.  Anna is helped in her quest by the extravagant, if somewhat bumbling Coyote Bones. This enigmatic individual never seems to have things go quite as planned but provides us with a greater understanding of the backways of the hidden nation.

Aside from great interactions, the characters are helped immensely by the artwork within. Carlini manages to capture the mundane and the magical in equal detail. I would imagine it would be easy to fall into the trap of going over the top with the fantastical elements in Backways, but I found it really kept with the tone of the story. From the stern, humourless expression of Anna to the whimsical Coyote, not to mention the freakish flesh bender, the characters have a distinct charm. This is all no doubt helped by the colouring, which is on point throughout. On the subject of the artwork, I should also mention the alternative cover by Templesmith as it’s pretty sweet. I’ve enjoyed their previous work and this style really ramps up the strange to 11!

Backways packs a weighty punch, capturing plenty of popular symbolism and ideas of the ‘weird’ without becoming diluted or losing its edge. I for one can’t wait to fall head first further down this particular rabbit hole!

Rating: 4/5.

[Click to Enlarge]

The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster

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