2011 Image Comics
$10 at the usual online retailers
Lots of new books in the last week or so and I am a bit behind. This was one that the wife wanted to check out so I picked it up for her. This was not what I was expecting. This less Steppford students and a lot more The Prisoner. This is the first six issues of the Image series that started in 2010 by Nick Spenser & Joe Eisma, with covers by Rodin Esquejo and the first impression you get is not what you have when you are done with even the first chapter. I was quickly struck by the art. Noted elsewhere, the covers and the interior art are very different, but frankly those reviews are by people who have not gotten that you sell comics that way. Making a particular point about that is like saying water is wet. The covers are very different because the interior art is not as commercial. That is pretty much all there is to that. No, what stuck me is how much the art varies wildly from page to page. It appears to be rushed at times. My wife asked if this was deliberate, to make some particular statement with the art that relates to the characters or story in some way. I still am not entirely sure how to answer her. The art is clean and well rendered, the style does not make huge leaps and the layouts are clear and not ever over done. There are just points in it when it seems that not enough time was taken with some of the panels and pages. A gripe I have about some of the more minimal illustrators out there is that the faces are not always well-defined. I cannot always tell the characters from one another. Those with a sense of history will know that is one of the reasons pretty much EVERY character of note in the Golden Age was very garish and bright. To make the books as clear and understandable as they could be for the younger audience of the day. In the modern era, as the age of the readership increased, the need for that has started to fall off. That ans the growth of the non Super Hero books. But there are many of the artists out there that have yet to master storytelling. This is an example of a book where the art is great, but not the panel to panel feel and story flow. John Byrne (reviewed recently at Review: Star Trek Crew.) is one of the best examples there is of a great storyteller. The art here is really nice and easy on the eyes, but it does not flow as well as it could, sometimes the panels are cluttered and the characters are hard at times to distinguish. Is the deliberate? I just am not sure. It is done so specifically at times that I can’t say that it is not something done specifically to distract the reader or send them down dead ends so that they are as off-balance as the people they are reading about.
The story follows the newest class at a posh education academy for very gifted students. The lives of the students are controlled and the families have no contact with the children, all in their teens. Sound familiar? Personally I always though a certain bald wheelchair bound educator was more than a little creepy. All that was missing was the “pedovan”. But any other similarities with a certain school in Westchester end there. There are gifts here to be sure, but nothing so blatant as red beams of force, wings or really big feet. Here the gifts are only hinted at. The students are at the school and embroiled in a conspiracy, not the least of which is why they are even there to start with. Quickly the characters are developed and many have interesting stories hinted at. This first trade edition is just the start of what feels like a long, possibly over drawn out storyline, but so far I am interested enough to keep reading.
For people who like their conspiracies a little more plain and clear-cut (the deep dark secret of the wolves and vampires in Twilight comes to mind) this will not work for you. Nothing is clear-cut here. There is little or no progress made at answering any of the questions raised by the story or those in it. There are only more questions, and some very fun ones at that. Much of what happens is easy to figure out, but the book is not without surprises.
I cannot say that I would recommend this unreservedly, but there is enough here to make me come back for at least one more look into this academy.