Writer: Matt Hawkins
Artist: Raffaele Ienco
Colourist: Troy Peteri
Release Date: 17/02/16
Publisher: Top Cow Productions
QUICK REVIEW HAIKU
Far more dramatic
The art seems more bright and clear
Fully hooked me in
It’s difficult to know whether or not my transition to reading the comic in a different form has resulted in the more colourful and bright art that I experienced, but there seemed to be something special about it in this issue. Ironically, the story takes a transition into darker territory and begins to inch away from the new status quo that was beginning to form. Granted this is only the third chapter of a much broader story, but the depth in each issue creates a feeling of violation as the protagonists are torn away from the burgeoning hope that was beginning to bubble.
Everything about the story in this issue spells out the unrelenting force and insurmountable odds that the characters are going to be facing. From the flashforward to the main body, we’re shown how powerful the ruling elite are and the influence that they have on the remainder of the population. A member of the main group takes a turn for the worse, demonstrating just how lucky and special the remainder of the main characters are to survive and stand out from the crowd. There’s one moment in particular in the first half of the book where the art works beautifully to paint the picture of a team that’s starting to work together, creating a misleading(?) high-point from which to work from.
As previously mentioned, both the art and the colouring stand out from the page to feel more vibrant and engaging than ever before. Ienco has hit his stride with this world and crafts an extraordinarily fluid action sequence as everything starts to go wrong at the same time. His wolves in particular are beautifully painted creatures that have such a high attention to detail in both their positioning and their fur that it’s very easy to get sucked into the danger alongside the cast. The actual confrontation itself, coupled with the one in the opening sequence, shows off his understanding of page layouts and his ability to understand when intense zooms are appropriate and when to show a wider shot. Although the fight may not be long, his art makes it feel intense.
Hawkins has built up this relationship between Michael and Maricela so subtly and yet somehow unbelievably quickly. Foreshadowing their final destination in the caption boxes and putting that alongside the glimpse into the future cements them in your head as a couple destined to be together. As the two execute a frontal assault on the enemy’s base, showing them standing confidently back to back demonstrates the innate trust between them and lets you know how much they’ve been through to get to this point. In the present day storyline, Ienco shows how the intensity of the situation has pushed them instantly together through the use of understated details in how tactile they are with each other. Instead of spending time shoving it directly in your face, they’re allowed to grow more organically in the background of the main action.
Maricela is someone who previously, despite being praised as this astounding force to be reckoned with, hasn’t had much chance to actually demonstrate what she’s capable of. Not content to keep her in this role, Hawkins ensures that she’s shown to be just as able, if not more so than Michael, or defending herself. When the pair are attacked, she’s the one who steps forward and refuses to lie down and take a beating. Gender equality isn’t earned through gratuitous and self-congratulatory monologues; only by actually treating the female characters in an identical manner to the male ones can you achieve this symmetry. Given her admittedly brief time on panel, I’m glad to see Maricela step forward in a prominent role so quickly and I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Hawkins confirms in the Sociology Class entry what can easily be inferred from his writing: he’s plotted narrative justifications far beyond what you actually see on the page. Although the obvious plot-significant secrets that are kept from the reader, all of the little implicit moments fit together to construct a universe that feels as though it has conversations and lives happening outside of this story. One of the secondary characters, Thomas, finds comfort in a woman that we haven’t seen before. Even her brief inclusion in the story reveals something about her background and through her willingness to jump straight into a fight and what we saw of her last month. Knowing that details like this are considered are what makes this series feel so alive.
I loved the first two issues of this series from both a plot and artistic perspective. However, there were moments when the positioning of the humans appeared to be slightly too static. Ienco surpasses himself to create a book that, despite how technologically advanced this world is, feels grounded in its human interactions. Hawkins begins fleshing out the second of the main protagonists and looks to be taking the series in a very dark direction. All of this has renewed my dedication to this fascinating world and I look forward to seeing how these overwhelmed characters are going to escape from a system that’s been methodically engineered against them.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
|Written by Mark Dickson|