Publisher: Image Comics
Created By: Melita Curphy
Writers: Singgih Nugroho, Ryan Cady
Art: Sami Basri, Sakti Yowono (colours)
Release Date: 24th January 2018
It’s rare to find a first issue with such a skilful delivery. A new story that builds a world and introduces a cast of characters in 30-odd pages with ease and total engagement. I am completely impressed by Dissonance, and I find the story utterly fascinating.
The world of Terra Fantasme is at war. Its inhabitants – The Fantasmen – have transcended, and by doing so have lost any sense of conscience. As a result, their civilisation, for all its technical advancement, hurtles towards destruction. In a bid to stop the end of days they reach out to the galaxy and find Earth, and ‘The Conscience Agreement’ is struck between the two planets. An exchange where a Fantasman can join with a human and live in symbiosis.
The exchange is simple. Earth benefits from the technological superiority of Terra Fantasme, and the Fantasman regains morality from its human counterpart. There are two types of Dissonance. The full-sync is a perfect unison of Fantasman and Human joined together, forming a new being, while the half-sync is a human with an altered physical state, but with two separate minds working together.
Of course, all that really happens is the war moves from Terra Fantasme to Earth. You see, the trouble with morality is that you can chose to ignore, or subvert it.
It’s this simple point that, for me, really makes Dissonance stand out. It’s relevant to our times. Instead of warring with one another, the Fantasmen war from the shadows on Earth in the guise of a secretive cabal: The Rex Mundi. One human family controls global media (Fake News, anyone?), while the other full and half-syncs control finance, logistics, pharmaceuticals and religion.
I’m excited by this. The dual-world futurism screams pulp 60s Sci-Fi to me, and that’s before we even get to the obvious parallel to Stargate in the idea of symbiosis. The manipulation of media narrative in the opening gambit is all about control through fear and shock; much like what is happening in global politics right now. Yes, this is a fantastic story, but there is a strong pulse of relevance flowing through it that is hard to ignore.
It doesn’t stop there. Folke, the man in charge of Global media, seems – at least for the time being – to be a possible protagonist for the story. He’s part of the cabal, but his intention seems to be one of change for the better. He wants to try new methods, ways that will curtail the death of innocents, but his counterparts revel in bloodshed and are opposed to this new way of thinking. Meanwhile, his sociopathic sister is plotting to overthrow him, concealing her rage towards him and the world by taking it out on her woman-servant in private.
Finally, there is the hero, a First Generation Fantasman called J. Riko. He has arrived on Earth to track down Ghaergos, a spirit that has escaped prison on Terra Fantasme – I can already envision this Fantasman joining with Roisia, Folke’s psychotic sister. Please make this happen! This is his first visit to Earth, and one of his first encounters is a Purism group staging protests against ‘The Conscience Agreement.’ All of this, and more, is packed into this opening issue, and it’s utterly compelling.
The art in this issue is a great foil to the story. It’s an eclectic mix that seems to me to take influences from manga when drawing humans. Anything from Terra Fantasme seems heavily influenced by South American indigenous art. It may sound weird, but it works. The colours are bright and vivid, especially with anything connected to the Fantasman. I immediately drew parallels to a Luc Besson movie, albeit in comic format. It’s a fantastic contradiction – there are so many different themes at play in both the story and art that should be a jumbled mess, but in the pages of Dissonance it all seems to meld together with a perfect ease. A testament to the creative team involved.
I haven’t been this excited by a new series for a long, long time. Dissonance is a gloriously ridiculous premise, but its relevance to our times cannot be denied. It’s a mix of high-fantasy, sci-fi, espionage, political intrigue, social commentary and, at its bare bones, perhaps an essay on what it means to be human. Yes, that sounds like a hell of a lot, almost too much for one issue to introduce, and yet it just works.
J. Riko seems like such an innocent hero, new to the Earth, and on the opposite end of that sliding scale from the corrupt Rex Mudi. The Grand Clergy representative is an especially horrid character, one I think every reader will be hoping meets a horrible end, yet we know at the same time he’ll always escape. I already love hating him.
If this title doesn’t become a runaway success I’ll be genuinely heartbroken.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.