REVIEW: American Dark Age #1

At the Creator Connections panel at New York Comic Con, I got to talking to a talented artist who said she was helping out at the Megabrain Comics booth over the course of the con.  The name struck a bell, but I couldn’t quite place where I’d heard it before.  But once I got home and returned to my backlog of creator-owned review comics, I read this great debut issue of American Dark Age, and I realised that this is where I’d heard the name Megabrain Comics before.  And now I’m kicking myself, as if I’d read this comic beforehand, I’d surely have remembered to go to the booth and congratulate the creators in person for the quality comic.  But if I’m unable to do that, this review will have to do.

This first issue is mostly prologue.  In the opening pages we get a brief glimpse of protagonist Katherine Brody as a swordswoman slicing and dicing foes in a barren future landscape devoid of all technology, but for the most part this first issue is about flashing back to before the catastrophic event ominously referred to as “the blackout”, and giving us some insight into the possible cause of this disaster, as well as letting us get to know Brody and her supporting cast in a little more detail.  Brody proves to be an interesting character, as this glimpse into her former life shows an identity as a punk rocker, and a dependence on her electric guitar to feel like she has a purpose, and even to feel loved.  Given the fate we know awaits all electrically-powered items, her journey to find a new sense of self in a harsh and different world should make for some intriguing reading.

On the whole, writer Jean Michel does a great job in bringing this world to life.  I like his style, particularly his narration.  He is not a writer whose style is entirely plot-driven and functional.  He’s not afraid to play around a little, and get a bit poetic within his captions.  Without wanting to sound premature or make an unfair comparison, his voice reminded me quite a bit of early Alan Moore in this approach to wordcraft, which is good company to keep.  The dialogue was good too.  There were a couple of awkward moments of unconvincing teen-speak, particularly in the clunky nicknames Brody gives to people, but there was also some believable conversations peppered through the script that balanced things out.

The art of Jacqueline Taylor is also very slick.  Her slightly cartoony style doesn’t quite hit the right tone in the more sinister or horrific beats in the story, but she gives Brody that touch of expresiveness that really helps bring her to life.  It’s also worth noting that Jacqueline is able to skillfully maintain the level of detail in each panel, even when there are 8 or 9 panels in a page.  This means that, in terms of content, you feel like you’re getting a dense read that gives you plenty of content for a first issue, but not at the expense of the stylish aesthetic.  This isn’t an indy book that looks like an indy book.  American Dark Age has a cool, professional vibe that gives the book the production values you might associate with an Image title.  Good work.

American Dark Age has a clever concept, but more importantly, it’s executed with precision, by writer and artist alike.  Jean Michel and Jacqueline Taylor both mark themselves out here as talents to watch, and after a debut issue that skillfully balances compelling plot development and world-building with deft characterisation while barely setting a foot wrong, I’m definitely left on the hook eager to see what happens in issue #2.

American Dark Age #1 is now available to buy from Megabrain Comics’ official website.

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