Review – Vs #1 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Story: Ivan Brandon
Art: Esad Ribic
Colour: Nic Klein
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Release Date: 7th February 2018

When I first heard the premise for this new series, I was pretty darned excited. In a nutshell, it’s the far future and people get their kicks from watching corporate sponsored war. Sci-fi gladiators spilling blood to please the masses and keep the dollars flowing as a concept definitely ticks the boxes for me – I’ll confess to being a fan of films like Running Man, Rollerball, and heck even Death Race (and their applicable remakes). War may indeed be hell, but it’s never looked quite so good.

They always say don’t judge a book by its cover but when it’s the work of Esad Ribic it’s hard not to. Helped by some masterful colouring courtesy of Nic Klein, this book should (and will) stand out pretty well on any shelf in your friendly local comic shop. To me it’s reminiscent of the old classic sci-fi novel covers I’d see in the library as a kid and instantly makes you want to peer inside. And boy, the opening does not disappoint.

It seems almost the norm now for first issues to want to grab your attention quickly with great fanfare and whambam antics. Some get this spot-on, while with others it can fall flat. Vs takes a different approach and sells you on a concept where, even in a future with overpopulated cities and the constant buzz of consumerism, the space up there is big, and the space up there is lonely. The team make great work of emptiness to drive home the clamour and din of the brutal warfare that follows.

This isn’t the war and conflict that we are told is the future. It’s not all drones strikes and smart remote-operated robotic infantry. This is in your face and visceral. Combatants equipped with bionics and state of the art weaponry fight up close and dirty. No firing until you see the whites of their eyes, or if it’s a time-out for an ad break. Join us for more after these messages…

We’re introduced to Flynn, the superstar killer, and given an insight into the mindset of a true soldier of fortune. No spoilers, but Brandon attempts to portray the effects of these conflicts when these ‘entertainers’ are back in society. I can’t exactly say normal society as not many of us normal folk are greeted with crowds of fans or chauffeured around in high end motors. It’s here though that the book starts to fray around the edges and everything loses its luster somewhat. What started so bold seems to lose gravitas and becomes a bit weary and downtrodden. The core concept is still great and there’s good satire here but it failed to connect with me in the way I’d expected, owing to shifts in the portrayal of the story.

I’m left at the end of this issue unsure where Vs will take us, and that’s a good thing. All the right ingredients are here to make something truly remarkable, and if you’ll pardon these clichés’, it may be that it’s just a slow-burner.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

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