Review – Pandemica #1 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Artwork: Alex Sanchez
Colours: Jay Fotos
Letters: Shawn Lees
Release Date: 11th September 2019

Mysterious outbreaks of deadly diseases are wiping out thousands of people across the globe. When government official, Dr. Moses Katz, discovers a pattern showing that the spread is not natural and is targeting specific groups, an elite team is formed to root out the engineers behind what appears to be a business selling genocide to the highest bidder.

Pandemica is a title that I’ve seen no advance news of so I went in completely blind, and I have to say that this was an entertaining first issue. This is a great action thriller with truly global consequences should our protagonists fail in their mission. What I really like about this story is that in the current socio-political climate, this isn’t a particularly far-fetched idea. A world where ethnic cleansing, mass murder and genocide is a regular news story not a work of fiction, this is something that assaults our senses far too frequently today.

Chemical & biological weapons are a stark reality in the world we inhabit, as is the truth that there are men of power that have no compunctions about using them. Chemical weapons have been in use for over 3000 years (China, I’m looking at you) and the use of plague victims to poison wells dates back a thousand years; and terrorists have been using, with varying levels of success, to use the likes of Sarin Gas, Anthrax and Ebola to further their causes for decades. It’s actually quite surprising when you think about it that we don’t already have high grade biological attacks more regularly.

So, Jonathan Maberry’s first issue is one that is worryingly believable. It’s also one that nobody would be surprised to see on their news feeds, but it has a great dramatic flair that builds tension well and does a lot of world building and character development while maintaining a good pace. Our protagonists are a team of misfits, with – to quote a famous ex CIA officer – a very particular set of skills. When he quits his position in government Katz can no longer rely on their backing, but thankfully for the world, he is an incredibly rich man in his own right and as a former head of a specialist team tasked to hunt down agencies using biological weapons he is in a perfect position to take the war back to the perpetrators.

I found the artwork a little hit and miss in places, but I do like Alex Sanchez’ style. The use of heavy pencil gives it a gritty feel that really suits the story and the flow and action works really well throughout. The colouring from Jay Fotos is good, works well with the tone of the story although again is a bit hit and miss.

My one major criticism of this issue is the sheer amount of dialogue. At times it is difficult to see the artwork for the number of speech bubbles in the panel. I just hope that Shawn Lee got paid by the letter on this one as he has pulled off a Herculean effort in keeping all the text clear and manageable. I don’t know whether this is a lack of confidence in the ability of the artist to portray the story, or whether Jonathan Mayberry just needs to edit himself better but I did find it distracting, especially where one character has multiple connected speech bubbles going on and then someone else joins the conversation which goes on to traverse multiple panels.

Pandemica has all the right elements for a great thriller; mystery, intrigue, betrayal and a shadowy organisation pulling the strings, and that’s just the first issue.

Rating: 3/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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