Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Gary Whitta
Artwork: Darick Robertson
Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Lettering: Simon Bowland
Release Date: 23rd January 2019
Being a fan of both Whitta’s storytelling and Robertson’s art, the prospect of a post-apocalyptic superhero spin on the classic Dickens tale of Oliver Twist was definitely an intriguing prospect. Now with that in mind, it would be remiss of me not to be cliché and use “the line”. Will this new series leave me, much like the eponymous orphan, asking please sir(s), for more?
The opening pages do not disappoint. Panel after panel of a lone survivor trudging through a bleak, ravaged landscape towards London, and a splash of a ruined Nelson’s Column wonderfully overlaid with an excerpt from John of Gaunt’s deathbed speech (Shakespeare’s Richard II). The tone is perfect, leaving you feeling the chill in your bones and the soot in your lungs all the while the gnawing melancholy builds. From these panels alone we glean the signs of destruction wrought not by plague or environment, but by the wars and conflicts of man. Shell craters and bullet holes pockmark the terrain and for anyone who enjoys their post-apocalyptic settings, it’s all thumbs-up stuff.
Plot wise, we follow the wanderer into some kind of makeshift army outpost manned by genetically engineered soldiers, where they are revealed to be a heavily pregnant woman in the throes of labour. Mother passes away but thankfully infant survives to be named Oliver by their new guardian. There’s some nice nuanced language from Whitta here which I only noticed on my second reading. Not that it’s overly cryptic, just nice to go back with more context. Skipping with a flash-forward of three years it’s clear to anyone who knows kids that Oliver is not your average child. Leaping and bounding over the rooftops of ruined London with a grace and abandon like a chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, Oliver’s development has rocketed to far exceed what one would expect.
There’s some convenient exposition by Prospero, the aforementioned guardian and father figure, to the young Oliver explaining the fate of the world and how he came to be where he is. Of course we know that this isn’t the full truth and with that we are left with yet more questions for next time.
All in, this was a darn pleasing read. The notion of superhero fantasy thrown into a genre I have a fondness for wasn’t something I’ve really contemplated, or experienced, outwith fringe cases like Elseworld-style stories. I had worries that it would chafe or feel an ill fit, and whilst it’s overall very muted in this first issue, the team seem to have it pegged down.
So in answer to my earlier question, it’s a big yes; we are left wanting more. Not because we’ve been left unsatisfied but rather ‘cause second helpings would go down a treat.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster