Under normal circumstances, I’d spend my Wednesdays perusing the shelves of my local comic book shop’s new releases. On the odd chance I missed something in PREVIEWS, I’d seek a cover, or perhaps a writer, to lure me into a purchase of something a little fresher than my usual ongoing titles to spice up the ever-growing reading pile.
However, as the result of the lockdown and my local comic shop being closed for the public safety, I have to be a little more creative when it comes to tracking down new comics to enjoy. And right off the bat, the title to this new AfterShock Comics series grabbed me. A little Google search and the art stole my heart with flashbacks to early Vertigo art styles and themes. Very Hellblazer and/or Swamp Thing. So I took the bait and ran with it.
Oh, and before I continue, if you’re in the UK, our comic shops are reopening so please support your LCS wherever you can.
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Author: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Mark Torres
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 14th April 2021
Before I start, I should point out that this is my first foray into the world of AfterShock Comics, but so far so very impressed. This cover art could easy be a movie poster for an A-list movie. It’s captivating and artful and just delicious, so huge props to Mark Torres who did the cover as well as the interior art.
The interior art uses wonderfully pastel colouring to show times of ease and comfort while frequently switching things up subtly to build tension as the story develops. The art in this opening issue is so strong and well defined that much of the text could almost be removed without your interest wavering for a second. Having seen Torres’ work on Image Comic’s Cold Spots, I’m assured this book is in great hands Everything so far is scoring big points with me, but does the story hold as much interest as the artwork?
Writer Cullen Bunn has been quoted saying that this new series “offers a new take on psychic powers, and how they can be portrayed”. Taking inspiration from the pages of Stephen King and using notes from their father’s professional hypnotism business, Bunn clearly has the right spirit for a story such as this.
An astrological incident births a new breed of psychically gifted humans. Of these, a group of six bind together to discover the secrets of their new-found powers and avoid the dark fate it seems they will inevitably lead to. Every page here births a deeper mystery and fear of the impending doom. With this being the opening issue, I tend to be relaxed on how much information/understanding I expect to have of the overall narrative, so long as there is some selling point to encourage future reading.
Some comics like Department of Truth focus on tackling the level of belief of the reader, committing them to the rules of their narrative. Others like my recently reviewed Geiger focus on “why should I care?”, while others like DC’s Martian Manhunter maxi series focus on the mystery at hand using intrigue to hook the reader. Saying that, I genuinely feel that Phantom on the Scan has a mystery for everyone, a character for everyone and an approachable way to explain and enjoy the unexplainable. In a story which promises the creative use of psychic powers and flawed characters, that’s more than enough to keep my attention.
The main selling point for me as an experienced comic fan is the clear understanding that this a story which isn’t looking for a happy ending or some unnecessarily bleak future. This is a story about people, not comic book archetypes. The unusually gifted yet undeniably normal people. Housewives, junkies, students and everyday workers. These are people you could know personally or bump into daily. The people who will talk about their day, crack the odd joke and want to get on with the 9-5 life. Keeping the story away from the prodigal archetype or even the cursed archetype is refreshing and gives a wide range of narrative options.
This is an exploration of the human psyche during unconventional events, and if the story continues to build on its promised path, this is definitely one to watch.