Publisher: Image Comics
Writers: Charles Soule, Scott Snyder
Artists: Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli
Colours: Matt Wilson
Release Date: 6th November 2019
I need to take a minute to catch my breath after that; what a debut issue.
This new series from Snyder, Soule et al is kitchen sink. That is to say, they’ve taken what feels like bits of everything and thrown it together into some kind of Frankenstein’s monster. However, instead of being a disjointed mess, this is a tour de force of storytelling.
Set in a near future where the US decided to close its borders and shut itself off from the rest of the world, we join the story some thirty years later in the midst of a catastrophic pandemic. New super-powers and alliances have formed in the absence of America’s influence, but civilisation is crumbling. The self-imposed silence breaks with a message of a cure and a possible trade deal. Nothing is ever that easy…
What opens as an apparently ‘traditional’ near future political thriller, albeit with a fairly out-there premise, doesn’t take long to mutate into a heady blend of Escape From New York (or should that be Break Into?) meets 2000 AD’s Cursed Earth. I honestly don’t want to say much more as the effect of turning each page here should be savoured.
Hats off to the artistic team. As much as the premise and written word are critical to this book, without the talents on display, this could potentially have fallen flat. The sharp changes in subject and location are always met with a high degree of detail and the overall world building is simply astounding. When things go sideways and the team release the design throttle, this tight control doesn’t let up even with the outlandish variety of imagery presented. To have been a fly on the wall during the discussions of design for this Brave New America would have been interesting to say the least.
My only gripe, and it is just a little niggle, is that almost every double page runs on. I’m used to the occasional double splash for effect but it took me a while to get used to layout. There’s purposeful intent behind it which I can appreciate, but I guess this is a personal preference deal.
As a Brit reading this, I can take it at face value or I can look at the subtext of what’s being offered. To say that the book isn’t making any broad political statements would seem, to me at least, to be disingenuous. America shutting itself off from the world in a fit of isolationist protectionism whilst building walls on its borders doesn’t seem too far fetch does it? Development of comms blackout technology and air defences akin to force fields aside, one can’t escape the similarities and overtures played out on an almost daily basis. No doubt some will not be able to overcome or look past this and deprive themselves of what could well be a truly fantastic series.
I must also give some brownie points for the last couple of pages in this first issue. Dropping extra-long form world building gets a big tick from me. The decision to have this at the end is either very well designed or incredibly fortuitous. The clarification and detail is like the pudding after a good dinner. After your mind is blown by what you’ve just read, the eagerness for more is partially sated, and if offered at the start would have, if not ruined the overall effect, felt out of place. Who am I kidding, it’s clearly intentional.
Given how much is in here, it would be remiss of me to not say there’s something for everyone. Political thriller or semi-sensible science fiction that looks set to rock its way into a post-apocalyptic road trip? Don’t mind if I do. Do yourself a favour and check out this post-apocalypt-a-palooza!
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster