Saturday, July 20, 2019

Collapser #1 Review and Spoilers

Written by: Mikey Way and Shaun Simon 
Art by: Ilias Kyriazis 
Colours by:  Cris Peter 
Letters by: Simon Bowland 
Price: $3.99 
Release Date: July 17,2019

The Young Animals imprint returned last week with Doom Patrol and this week it’s the turn of Collapser, a book co-written by imprint ‘curator’ Gerard Way’s fellow band member and younger brother Mikey, to step up to the mic. Will it bomb or will it take off ? There’s only one way to find out… 

This book focuses on the trials and increasingly weird travails of twenty-something wannabe DJ/full-time care assistant Liam James. Before we get to him, though, there’s a page and a half of introduction that focuses on a dead superheroine who’s lying face up on an alien planet and is almost totally covered in weird black alien goop. Two characters are talking about her off-panel and, in an admirably economical exchange of dialogue, reveal that the goop can’t just be ‘left there’. The next page we see a triptych of panels at the top showing the dead hero sans goop, a space ship leaving the planet and the same ship later approaching Earth. The bottom of the page features another triptych of the ship swooping down on Earth, an establishing shot of a block of apartments with a mini-market on the ground (first, to you Americans) floor and, finally, a shot of our hero in bed in his shorts about to be woken up by the knocking on the door. In between the two triptychs are the issue credits and its title. Which is? “Constellation Prize” I’m beginning to like this issue already. 

These first two pages are remarkable for two things: firstly, compressed but perfectly comprehensible storytelling; secondly, some really rather nice art. Illias Kyriazis is not a name with which I’m familiar, but his work here is quirky but not so outlandish that it detracts from the story and Cris Peter’s colours are nicely muted and, at times, rather subtle, particularly when it comes to shading. Simon Bowland is, as always, excellent on letters. Which is good, because, Lord above, he’s going to have his work cut out during the rest of the book. 

Having proven that they can deliver a tight, well-crafted comic book narrative in the opening two pages of the book, writers Mikey Way and Shaun Simon relax their discipline to make the third a gratuitous splurgefest of inner monologue which moves from vaguely amusing to genuinely irritating with depressing swiftness. To be fair, I am almost certainly at least two decades older than this comic book’s apparent target audience and it is entirely possible that a certain type of young single man living on his own may indeed react to an unexpected knocking on his door like this. But, there are 129 words on this page compared to 14 in total on the previous two. Now, it’s obviously reductive simply to compare word counts, but when some of the 129 words include: “Wait. Maybe Mrs Parker lost Fluffy again. No, she was robbed last week. They took the cat. Shit. Wait. Robbers wouldn’t knock, unless they were polite robbers. Oh, shit.” there might be a problem. The idea of thieves robbing a cat is, admittedly, kind of funny, but the repetition of short, punctuating sentence fragments in order to convey Liam’s panic is somewhat undermined by the longwinded manner in which the writers’ desire to appear funny is expressed. 

The following page sees Liam open the door, take a mysterious package from a delivery man who is clearly a lizard creature wearing a human mask, and, remembering he has to get to work, leave the package in his hall unopened. After the succinctness of the opening two pages, these two are clunky and ponderous by comparison. We then see Liam displaying commendable self-restraint and compassion working as a carer during a day that includes changing someone’s bedpan messily, dealing with someone’s mutant fungus-infected leg (that’s what it looks like to me, anyway) and, rather touchingly, feeling bad about missing his promised chess game with a very patient resident. This section is (much) better and demonstrates that Liam is an all-round good guy; it is interspersed with panels of the package back in Liam’s apartment. The dark blotches on it are growing in size and the suggestion is that whatever is inside the package is starting to bleed out of it. Hmmm… 

We then get Liam’s journey back home, his conversation with the guy who runs the minimarket below his flat, Liam getting ready to go out and, in amongst all that, a page in which we return to the alien planet to find someone else looking for the weird goop-thing and getting all angry when he realises it’s not there.  

The issue so far has been diverting enough but it’s in danger of losing its focus when Liam arrives at the club where he’s going to DJ in front of a rep from a German music festival. Fortunately, we get some new characters (his girlfriend Jocelyn, and friend Trip) to off-set the Liam-centric shenanigans we’ve had so far and provide the narrative with a greater sense of purpose. Jocelyn is supportive; she loves Liam and wants to see him succeed. She also provides a way of communicating plot without the excessive use of those damn though blotches. Phew! It’s here that Kyriazis really excels himself. The nightclub scenes are visceral and creative. The page of Liam in bliss, headphones on and his inner monologue for once silenced, while the club dances in the background and Jocelyn reaches out towards him, sweating, face glowing with love and pride, is just glorious. 

But, of course, such happiness cannot last and, indeed, it doesn’t here. When Liam reaches the crescendo of his set, the curious black spots that have been on his clothing since he changed into them back at his apartment make their move, extrude thin tentacles of goop and, somehow, suck the power out of the building, effectively ending the party and Liam’s chances of playing a big German music festival in one fell swoop. Liam’s reaction to this crushing disappointment reveals that even nice guys can be dicks and the issue enters its final third with a fallen hero, an estranged girlfriend and a big goop-covered mystery to unravel. 

That final third is really very well done. Having spent the first two sections of the issue introducing the main character, his hopes, dreams, trials, and friends, the last section does a great job of introducing the madness that is going to overtake him and render all of the above extremely problematic. What impressed me most about this section is that we’re back to quick, economical storytelling again and there are plenty of things introduced earlier on in this issue that are developed here rather than just being tantalizing hints to be built on in later installments. And, honestly, I really appreciate that. Plus, this final section is just an awful lot of fun. 

Bits and Pieces: 

As introductory issues go, this does an awful lot more right than it does wrong. Liam is a great sympathetic character; the situations he finds himself in are entertaining and intriguing. Kyriazis’ layouts and art are great and Peter’s colors are wonderfully subtle. While Liam’s internal monologue does grate at times, there’s a lot to like here and I’m optimistic about the prospects for this series. 


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