Best Shots Advance Reviews: FIGHT CLUB 2 #1, FRESH ROMANCE #1, EMPTY ZONE #1, SURFACE TENSION #1, More

'Fresh Romance' cover by Kevin Wada
Credit: Rosy Press

Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your post-holiday reviews? Best Shots has you covered, with a ton of reviews from both last week and this week! So let's kick off today's column with Biting Brian Bannen, as he takes a look at Convergence: Green Lantern Corps...

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Green Lantern Corps #2
Written by David Gallaher
Art by Steve Ellis, Ande Parks and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Guy Gardner’s hero’s journey comes full circle in this second Convergence: Green Lantern Corps issue. Stripped down to his essence, and lacking a ring of power, Guy reveals himself as resourceful and determined, but not as intense as he’s appeared recently. There’s a jocularity to the character that makes him instantly likable, and seeing him struggle to overcome his paranoia reminds us that above all else, heroes need humanity to set them apart from the bad guys.

David Gallaher and Steve Ellis definitely ask readers to take a leap of faith with this issue. If you can swallow a motorcycle riding Guy Gardner using a baseball bat and his inertia to knock out a dragon, then you can as easily believe that Guy can beat the son of a god in an arm wrestling match. Gallaher and Ellis have a lot of fun with the medium, and in turn, the comic is a lot of fun to read. The outlandishness of Convergence sets the stage for an equally outlandish tale that isn’t afraid to use the situation to its benefit.

But at its core, this is a story about Guy Gardner, the other other Green Lantern, the less polished of the three (four if we include Kyle Rayner), and his attempts to overcome his baggage stemming from an imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. The climactic battle between Guy, Hal, John, and the Anti-God proves Guy’s importance to the GL universe, as he’s the only one who can figure out how to defeat the villain. The ending is a bit dramatic in how neatly it comes together, and the litany of apologies from Hal and John are a bit mawkish, but it makes for a proper conclusion to a two-part series, and definitely punctuates the change in Guy’s character.

My only real critique around the story is in the pacing. Given how action-heavy the comic is, when Gallaher slows down the tale to do more character development, they sap the energy. Guy’s arm wrestling match serves a vital role in the story, but it also stalls the brisk and smooth movement of the plot. Granted, they get it back when Hercules tosses Guy into the fray, but the transition is jarring enough to note.

The art, though, is consistently solid. Steve Ellis’ illustrations match the bizarre, other-wordly nature of the story in their cartoonish tone. They occasionally look culled from an animated series, which is great because they help sell the fantasy.The blocky, clean designs provide clarity amid the opaque and barren settings of the Convergence world. So while Ellis’ characters are drawn well, his creatures are exceptional. The dragon and the Anti-God are drawn with impeccable detail, and brought to life through Hi-Fi’s vibrant colors.

While the main Convergence title has failed to make a lasting mark, the tie-ins at least have provided some solid character development, unique art, and couplings of artists and writers who have delivered, in a short span, some great stories. Convergence: Green Lantern Corps #2 is another example of this, and while Hal gets the most attention, it’s nice to be reminded of the other Green Lanterns, particularly everyone’s favorite warrior. He may not have been chosen first, but he proves once again that his is one of the best.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Star Wars #5
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassaday and Laura Martin
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The forthcoming Star Wars cinematic outing has made us all nostalgic for the good ol’ days of galaxies far, far away, and from the moment the first issue of Jason Aaron’s run kicked off, there was a sense that “we’re home.” The fifth chapter in the latest Marvel incarnation is perhaps the most direct nod to this notion, opening with a shot of a familiar set of twin suns, returning us to the planet where it all began and making the always popular Boba Fett a central figure in the narrative.

As Luke returns to Tatooine, the bounty hunter Boba Fett searches for the him, knowing only that he is looking for the mysterious X-Wing pilot from the destruction of the first Death Star. Luke seeks answers, and quite sensibly heads to old Ben Kenobi’s place out by the Dune Sea. Meanwhile, Han and Leia dodge forces in a stolen Imperial Shuttle, echoing a later maneuver in Return of the Jedi, and a hot pursuit that might just serve as the inspiration for a later bit of hiding in The Empire Strikes Back. Once again, Aaron’s skill is in holistically capturing the voice of the classic films, to the point that it’s impossible to read without an accompanying John Williams score.

There’s an element of fan-service to a story based around Boba Fett, a character who has always had a greater life in the expanded universe/Star Wars Legends fiction than in the films themselves. Yet the same could be said of almost every expanded universe property that has emerged in the last four decades. Running rapidly through a checklist of bounty hunters, Tusken Raiders, Mos Eisley Cantinas and hostile Rodians (who do not get a chance to shoot first), it’s exactly the kind of thing that fans would want to see. Which is why Aaron’s Star Wars is fine and dandy, delivering an unstoppable matinee serial that could very easily slot in-between films.

John Cassaday’s art continues to be staggeringly good, as if he were simply sketching actual frames from the original trilogy. He gets to cut loose in the Catina, with Boba Fett taking down a hulking beast that looks as if it emerged from the mind of Richard Corben. Cutting back and forth between Luke on Tatooine and Han and Leia in a shuttle, it’s easy to forget that you are reading a comic and not looking at the storyboards of a lost scene. There’s also some particularly fine work from colorist Laura Martin in a sequence involving a sea of cyclones and electrical super-storms, and her authentic tones give familiar and new sets a consistent feel throughout.

One of the chief issues Star Wars is going to keep running into throughout this run is the lack of any true mortal peril to its characters. After all, we know where they end up. The cliffhanger of this issue is forced to blind a character to stop them from encountering Boba Fett before their actual first meeting in a later film, which is not the first time the tension between canon and storytelling has happened in Aaron’s run. Yet if you are willing to just accept these as adventure stories with your favorite characters, told with an authentic voice, then you and Star Wars are going to get along just fine.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: The Flash #2
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Federico Dallocchio, Veronica Gandini
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Tangent Comics were a short lived imprint that ran in 1997 and 1998. It followed the notion that the technological and geopolitical advances of the world were built around the existence of superheroes, rather than simply being a mirror of our own world with capes. Superman was a character who had advanced millions of years in evolution, while Green Arrow was a can of soda. Initially outside the DC Universe and free to do whatever they wanted with the characters, Infinite Crisis brought the world into the Multiverse as Earth-9. Convergence: The Flash #2 takes Mark Millar’s version of Superman and pits him against the Crisis on Infinite Earths era Barry Allen.

By the second issue of all of these Convergence titles, there is a distinct pattern, one that has been washed, rinsed and repeated across the entire line with only a handful of exceptions. Which is what makes a this issue, based mostly around a rational conversation between Barry and “Harvey Dent/Superman,” such a refreshing change of pace. It also addresses the elephant in the room that Convergence left lying around. Superman asks Barry why would a being of immense power bring so many beings from the Multiverse together to simply make them fight? It telegraphs some of the changes in the later issues of the main title, and perhaps nodding to the notion of a bigger game at stake.

In true meta awareness form, the Flash calls Superman’s grandstanding bluff declaring “I’ve seen Star Trek” and gives artist Federico Dallocchio one of the sexiest images in the book as the Flash cracks Earth-9’s finest in the jaw by way of super speed punch. While it does mean that the second issue follows the pattern of the other titles in the stable – a lot of avoiding fighting, some fisticuffs and a stalemate of a resolution – Earth-9’s Superman is able to assess the situation from a higher level. Abnett cleverly summons the Hypertime strands from the various crises, giving this Superman an exit worthy of the Man of Steel. The same moment also seems to foreshadow fates and destinies of The Flash in Crisis on Infinite Earths, still one of the most poignant sacrifices in comics history.

Given that Dallacchio must spend the first half of this issue staging a conversation, it never feels stiff or stagey. Rather, there’s a fluid motion to the framing, the kinetic energy of the Speed Force and Superman’s powers ever present in every panel. Dallocchio frames the conversation through billboard signs, from low angles, wide shots and bird’s eye views. When the action does break loose, Abnett steps back to let the artist do the work, with seven pages of virtually no dialogue. With the exception of a few pages, the backgrounds are very simple, but nevertheless Veronica Gandini’s colors continue the artistic energy, crackling in only a handful of distinct colors.

Like the best of these Convergence books, Convergence: The Flash is a love-letter to the DC Universe and a nod to the important role that The Flash has played in almost every Crisis across the Multiverse. It’s not over yet, and perhaps the current Scarlet Speedster has a critical role to play in this Convergence.

Credit: DC Comics

Convergence: Swamp Thing #2
Written by Len Wein
Art by Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

While the previous issue of Convergence: Swamp Thing spent a lot of time rehashing its characters’ history, this issue spends less time on the past and more on the present, delivering a tale that is a sublime mix of action and Gothic horror, expertly telling the classic vampire story coupled with one of DC’s more unique team-ups. Convergence: Swamp Thing #2 takes everything successful about the previous issue and makes it better, leaving me disappointed only in the sense that we won’t ever see Swamp Thing or the Batman from Red Rain together again.

After a quick synopsis of the previous issue, Len Wein gets right to the action as Batman and Swamp Thing begin battling hordes of vampires. While Batman has weapons he uses to help him defeat his undead adversaries, Wein reminds readers that Swamp Thing is more than a walking moss man, but in fact a very powerful adversary. Because of his connection to the Green, Swamp Thing can channel every available tool to defeat vampires. Garlic breath may not be thought of as a superpower, but Wein takes full advantage of the deep vampire mythos to finds creative ways to make his hero every bit as formidable as Batman.

And while the comic is called Swamp Thing, Batman really becomes the driving force of the issue. He may be a vampire, but he still has the heroic tendencies of Batman, and Wein provides a fitting way for the character to maintain his essence. The conclusion, as seen in other Convergence titles this month, comes tidily packaged, but it doesn’t make it any less powerful, particularly for Batman.

Through Kelley Jones, we see the tortured character that Batman has become. Driven by a desire to drink blood, but also fighting to keep that desire at bay and to be the hero in a world lacking any, Batman has become a sad figure. Jones uses his unique styling to portray a broken character that you feel for, even if he is a six foot vampire. Because while the character looks terrifying, occasionally Jones humanizes him, and in two panels in particular, we can see in his face that Batman hates himself, and the constant struggle is wearing him thin.

But Jones’ penchant for monstrous character designs makes the visuals all the more scary, and if anyone can sell a Gotham inhabited by vampires, it’s Kelley Jones. The tone of the comic is brought to life through his pointed, shadow heavy style and Michelle Madsen’s gloomy and muted palette imbue the Gothic spirit of the story. The artistic team works well together to deliver visuals that are as engaging as the writing.

It’s a shame that Convergence: Swamp Thing is only two issues long because Len Wein and Kelley Jones have a fantastic concept on their hands, and one that could easily work well if expanded. This is just a taste of what could be, but it’s an excellent taste, and if Convergence brings us nothing else, at least this story came out of it.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Spider-Verse #1
Written by Mike Costa
Art by André Lima Araújo, Rachelle Rosenberg, Steven Sanders and Jim Campbell
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

While the universe-ending Secret Wars continues to sketch out the parameters for their version of a crisis/convergence, it’s clear that many of the realms on Battleworld will simply be tributes to previous events. Spider-Verse is perhaps the most recent of the Marvel crossovers to get a land, and perhaps one of the ones that makes the most sense. Compared to Civil War, which is simply a period of time within the Marvel 616, Spider-"Verse" drew from alternative histories, parallel Earths and mixed media to write a love letter to everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. This Spider-Verse, on the other hand, is something at odds with that sentiment.

Where Dan Slott’s meta-picture held together his massive Spider event, and was backed by his own mini-mythology he had built up through Superior Spider-Man, Costa excitedly pulls in a variety of the spider “totems” from across the multiverse. Starting with fan favorite Spider-Gwen, who has some memories of her own death thanks to a convergence of worlds, we rapidly transition between Billy Braddock (Spider-UK), Anya Sofia Corazon (Spider-Girl), and Pavitr Prabhakar (Spider-Man India). While it’s a thrill to see all of these gems from "Spider-Verse" back on page, none of them are given anywhere near enough depth in this short issue, nor are any of the broader implications, such as their hyper awareness of other timelines. Yet it is Gwen who is the de facto protagonist in this issue, and she discovers the genuine showstopper of a reveal in the final pages.

On the flip side, there’s a fun back-up story that may have actually got the tone right for this entire event. Starring none other than Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, “Pig In the City” follows his misfortunes from hero to homeless, including an “Auggie Wren’s Christmas” style montage and a brief career as a successful food blogger. These short vignettes seem like a better fit than longer form stories in the context of an event the size of Secret Wars, and in retrospect it would have been fun to see those as the major focus of a "Spider-Verse" tie-in, much as they did with the various Edge of the Spider-Verse issues throughout the original run.

Art for the issue is a delicate consistency that is at odds with the sometimes meandering script, with Araújo’s art always having a piece of Gary Frank’s classicism with some European influences on the backgrounds and technology. That said, backgrounds in this issue are minimal, instead choosing to focus on a different style of character expression as well. The work looks best when the characters are in costume, and during their brief fight sequence the notion of an Araújo penciled team-up book with Braddock, Corazon and Prabhakar seems like a very attractive prospect. In the back-up story, Steven Sanders and Jim Campbell bring a cartoony vibe to the story, but one that is still somehow consistent with the lead story. Unlike the recent animated version of Spider-Verse on the Ultimate Spider-Man series, this Peter Porker has a darker edge (of sorts).

While not quite tying in with main event, short of a throwaway line from Norman Osborn about Doctor Doom being his god, Spider-Verse remains a mostly entertaining chapter in an otherwise inconsistent (so far) multiversal event. However, with several chapters still remaining in this mini-series tie-in, there’s still a wealth of threads to explore on this always fascinating web.

Advance Reviews!

Fight Club 2
Fight Club 2
Credit: Dark Horse

Fight Club 2 #1
Written by Chuck Palahniuk
Art by Cameron Stewart and Dave Stewart
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It has been 16 years since the David Fincher film entered the rules of Fight Club into the popular consciousness, and shockingly almost two decades since the novel first dropped to become a cult classic for disenfranchised twenty-somethings. So as the target audience approaches its middle age, and its progenitor Chuck Palahniuk crosses fifty, the need to revisit one’s youth becomes an irresistible pull in this unlikely sequel. Restless existential angst gets transformed into the trap of the mid-life crisis, with the reawakening of the 1990s prophet of chaos.

Fight Club 2 is actually a sequel to the original novel, and not the film of the same name. Their endings departed significantly, and disciples have endlessly debated the relative strengths of those conclusions. Palahniuk makes the choice easy: he follows his own words, and like the author, the once unnamed narrator has aged. It’s been 10 years since the narrator, now going by the name of Sebastian, split with his alter ego Tyler Durden and went to a psychiatric facility. Now married to Marla with a child, both are dissatisfied with their lives. Marla longs for Tyler to reawaken to not only satisfy her sexually, but return a spark into their lives as well.

Right off the bat, Fight Club 2 establishes itself as a firm spiritual sequel to its predecessor, and not simply a cash-in on the familiar name. The same IKEA fugue state that shackled the narrator is now maintained by a sea of pills, literally strewn across the pages of the comic and covering those things that should evoke strong emotion. A support group for kids with Progeria Syndrome, producing premature aging, not only shows the self-involvement is alive and kicking within Marla, but serves as a metaphor for the central figures. Yet Tyler is still very much active, set for time-release but slowly seeping out into Sebastian’s world.

Cameron Stewart uses every inch of the comic book format to bring Palahniuk’s vision to life, perfectly blending the writer’s unique way of communicating with the art of sequential storytelling. Likewise, Palahniuk is confident enough to step back and let the art tell the story as well. Panels and objects will obscure pictures to make a point, such as Marla’s face blocking Sebastian’s past fights, a pill covering a war scene or rose petals completely obscuring expressions of love on their anniversary. As Sebastian’s life feels more restrictive, the panels get smaller, with one slice of suburbia represented as 15 confining panels on a page. Dynamite scenes punctuate the mundane existence of these characters, such as the visual representation of the “bomb” that Marla wishes would “explode all the worthless furniture stored inside Sebastian’s head...” Dave Stewart shows why he is the master of colors, ranging from the muted haze of Sebastian’s waking hours, to the psychedelic swirl of his other life. The unleashing of Sebastian’s sexual repression is single page cacophony of reds, pinks, oranges and yellows that screams out from between grey panels.

At a time when there is even more to be angry about in the world, from global politics to the division between rich and poor, Tyler Durden is needed more than ever. It is almost as if the character has been lurking deep within Palahniuk’s unconscious mind for the last two decades, to return fully formed and ready to take over the world. A stunning major comics debut from the writer, and an amazing example of how comics can create an entirely new form of expression. Tyler Lives. Rize or Die.

Credit: Rosy Press

Fresh Romance #1
Written by Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Kuhn
Art by Arielle Jovellanos, Amanda Scurti, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson and Savanna Ganucheau
Lettering by Taylor Esposito, Ryan Ferrier and Steve Wands
Published by Rosy Press
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

With its Kickstarter campaign fully funded, the independent Rosy Press launches its debut comic anthology Fresh Romance today, which includes three stories by some of today's most popular female creators, including Kate Leth (BOOM!'s Bravest Warriors) and Sarah Vaughn (Alex + Ada). Fresh Romance taps into a market that has clearly been lacking in recent memory. Romance comics were a booming business decades ago, but have severely waned since then. Well, Janelle Asselin and company are looking to bring them back with this creative endeavor.

The first story is "School Spirit" a high school romance that from Kate Leth and Arielle Jovellanos that has queer, interracial love as well as good ol' fashioned teen drama as the focus. Jovellanos' style flows like a mix of Joelle Jones and Babs Tarr with distinctive facial compositions and heavy expressions. This is probably Leth's most grounded work, but it hits all the right story notes and is a killer way to start the debut issue. The flat color palette by Amanda Scurti highlights Jovellanos' linework even more, drawing you in quickly.

Next up is a period piece during the Regency era by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle that tells the story of Catherine who is set to be married by an arranged marriage, but neither bride nor groom are pleased with it. Vaughn's dialect is superb without going overboard with trying to hard to match the time and environment. You get the sense of Catherine and the relationships she has with various people. Compared to "School Spirit," it definitely comes across as more minimalist, but it's a very strong story. Catherine's father's line about having to pay the dowry and how he gave more money than she's worth should tell you everything.

Finally, "The Ruby Equation" by Sarah Kuhn and Sally Jane Thompson takes a more supernatural spin on matchmaking. The cupid-like Ruby has to have a certain number of matches before she can head back to her homeworld, but she thinks that there's a formula for making people fall in love. Thompson's bubbly, animated style works great with this whimsical world. Kuhn is looking like she's having fun being the more fantastical story of the bunch. Colorist Savanna Ganucheau's almost Lisa Frank-type of color scheme just adds a bit more of fun.

Three stories each with a unique take on love and romance in different eras and scenarios, but also a variety in characters across the board in race and sexual orientation. Readers have been wanting diversity in both of those, so combining them in Fresh Romance does just that and then some by making a romance comic feel contemporary and gives fans and readers something that feels familiar, but feels so groundbreaking at the same time.

Credit: Image Comics

The Empty Zone #1
Written by Jason Shawn Alexander
Art by Jason Shawn Alexander and Luis Nct
Lettering by Sherard Jackson
Published by Image Comics
Review by Oscar Maltby
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Jason Shawn Alexander takes up writing and illustration duties for The Empty Zone #1, an explicit and surreal new series about dealing with trauma against a backdrop of pollution and body horror.

Corinne is barely alive. Eternally pumped full of drugs and with a right arm replaced by a spindly and rusted mechanical simulacrum, she's haunted by the traumatic events of her past. Alexander's script does little in the way of world building here, instead choosing to give us a full picture of Corinne's fragile state of mind.

As soon as you've finished it, The Empty Zone #1 demands a second and third read. We see The Empty Zone through the addled and fatigued mind of Corinne, frequently jumping from the harsh world outside into her own psyche. It's an effective if not bewildering way of sewing mental unrest within the book's narrative. Unlike most first issues of a whole new universe, The Empty Zone #1 never stops to explain the law and lay of the land. Jason Shawn Alexander expects you to get the gist of his Blade Runner-style dystopia from Corinne's very personal life, putting a refreshing amount of faith in the reader. There's no pandering here, and it comes across as a much more assured and well-rounded comic book as a result.

The backdrop behind The Empty Zone is as well-realized as the character of Corinne, but it's not as arresting. Alexander's techno-dystopia is a world of body-augmentation, nano-machines, poverty and stolen data: it's the same kind of cyber-setting that's been well established since the late 80's, and although not hugely original, Alexander's execution of all these elements is what makes the issue compelling.

Jason Shawn Alexander's artwork is as matured as his script. There's a lot of David Mack in the oil-smeared faces of Alexander's world, as well as his dedication to a realistic depiction of the human form. The world behind Corinne has a thick layer of scum on it, and colorist Luis Nct sticks to a sufficiently dark palette of blacks and grays, punctuated by a sheer white and the traffic light orangey-red of a mechanical foe. There's a Giger-esque quality to Alexander's visual depiction of ghosts: swirling black fetuses that demand you stare at their uncertain forms in order to get a sense of whatever the hell you're looking at.

Elsewhere, Sherard Jackson's lettering is on point, and there's a couple of moments on the fourth page that are inspired; to depict Corinne's lack of self-assurance, Alexander's script calls for her to second-guess her own narration. She immediately thinks of herself as a “minion” just before she thinks “soldier”, and the word “tenacious” is preceded by the much-less complimentary “stubborn”. Jackson has placed these negative words in a little box, highlighted them red and isolating them with a typewriter-esque font, which gives off the impression like Corinne has corrected her own narration with a rudimentary labeling machine. It's just a little thing, but it shows the kind of care and attention that runs through almost every element of The Empty Zone #1.

Between The Empty Zone #1 and Danijel Zezilj, Dave Stewart and Brian Wood's Starve, Image Comics seems to be on a bit of a sci-fi horror kick at the moment. Jason Shawn Alexander has produced a visually stunning comic book here, with a unique script that begs just as many questions as it answers. Hitting the shelves June 17, The Empty Zone is a visceral and challenging book that feels fresh, even if it is set in a slightly clichéd universe.

Credit: Titan Comics

Surface Tension #1
Written and Illustrated by Jay Gunn
Lettering by Jimmy Betancourt and Albert Deschesne
Published by Titan Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Described as "Princess Mononoke meets The Walking Dead," Jay Gunn does a valiant job trying to create an environmental horror comic in the form of Surface Tension. For a project as unorthodox and ambitious as this one, it may not be surprising that there are still a few bugs to be worked out of this first issue - while Gunn has conjured up a deeply realized new world, the scattered focus of his plot can't help but dilute this book's tension.

It takes a few pages to get there, but once Gunn actually describes the stark new world his survivors are living in, you can see a lot of the potential behind Surface Tension. On the coast of a British island, only 871 men and women have survived a global pandemic called "sea-sickness" - civilization has largely fallen, with billions of men and women literally melting into the ocean. That sort of "Robinson Crusoe at the end of the world" high concept has a lot of legs to it, and that does earn Gunn some comparisons to The Walking Dead - unfortunately, he's also got way too many other plans.

One global pandemic is plenty to go around - we've seen it in The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, any George Romero movie you can come to think of. But Gunn's story sometimes feels too ambitious for its own good, and sometimes just feels a little too scattered structurally. He opens his story with two mysterious, blue-skinned people who wash up on the beach, and ends it with the threat of some sort of mutated sea creature - unfortunately, these hooks aren't nearly as strong as just starting in medias res by showing the fall of civilization. Gunn gives us a particularly harrowing flashback about some sort of mysterious coral, but at the same time, it winds up working at cross-purposes with the high concept - he's got an amazing world to flesh out, but he seems more interested in other, less interesting things.

While its certainly ambitious for Gunn to be illustrating this book as well as writing it, there are some drawbacks to this auteur's approach. In a lot of ways, there are three kinds of horror art styles - there's a hard-angled approach, signifying off-kilter perspectives and dangerous sharp edges; there's dark shadows, eliciting murky morality and the fear of what's lurking just outside of reach; and there's rubbery, over-the-top expressiveness, pushing human bodies past the breaking point and really making their visceral horror our own. But Gunn's artwork feels flat and bright, with few terrifying visuals to really goose the readers.

Gunn primarily goes for body horror with his comic, with the sea-sick turning green and being in various stages of meltiness, but ultimately, it's hard to feel scared about this book, as none of the human characters involved look particularly frightened. Even the book's setting - a remote British isle - winds up looking almost tropical, reminding me more of a gorgeous day in Italy rather than a final bastion for humanity. That said, some of Gunn's exposition looks great, particularly in the way that he draws sea creatures - there's a montage of an oil spill that looks particularly evocative, reminding me a bit of J.H. Williams III.

Ultimately, there are going to be people who are impressed with Gunn's environmental messages, as well as the sheer chutzpah he has welding them to the horror tropes of The Walking Dead. Even I'm impressed, on a conceptual level. But the execution of Surface Tension still leaves a little to be desired - which may be the kiss of death for this environmental comic, many of which often fall under the radar. Jay Gunn deserves plenty of praise for putting so much of himself into Surface Tension - here's hoping he can streamline his narrative in future issues, to really decide what kind of story he wants to tell his readers.

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