With Breakneck, Ghost Lines and the upcoming Broken (I’ve written a review for that, but I’m waiting for news on its publication before it goes up!), writer Mark Bertolini has proven to be a dependably strong storyteller. But with Long Gone, his new comic from Markosia due to hit shelves in September, Bertolini could have found that story that’s going to elevate him to the next level. He’s always been good, but the execution of this dystopian epic suggests a writer with increased assurance, operating on a grander canvas and injecting more atmosphere and narrative tricks. This is a lean, stripped-down machine of a story, ruthlessly paced, and instantly gripping.
I’ve only got to read a preview copy of the first chapter, thus far, but it’s a hell of an opener. The concept, as it is introduced, is that one day, all the superheroes banded together and decided that, instead of protecting regular people, they would exterminate them and take the world for themselves. Hence a mass genocide occurred, leaving behind retired plumber Abe Connelly as perhaps the lone human survivor in a bleak, Mad Max style acopalyptic wasteland. When he stumbles upon a cache of government-developed weaponry, he sees a poosibility of fighting back. In some ways, the narrative bears echoes to his earlier work, Breakneck: there, the superheroes united to wipe out all the supervillains, and we followed the plight of one lone villain in the world that followed. But here, the execution is quite starkly different, feeling almost like a zombie movie with flying beings in capes and tights replacing the decaying undead. It’s a pretty refreshing dynamic, and I’m interested to see how this world develops moving forward.
The art is by Ted Pogorzelski, and it’s a good fit for the aesthetic Bertolini sets up. His great skill in laying out the pages here is in his choice of where to place the “camera” in his panels. He typically goes long, letting his gaunt, haunted characters stand stranded in vistas of barren, broken landscapes. This evocatively heightens the isolation that comes with this grim new world. And when Pogorzelski does draw in the camera for a close-up, it’s devastating. From the raw grief of Abe Connelly as he first encounters the fate of his family, to the depraved lunacy of the masked superhumans, he just nails the expressions, giving us distinct characters with personalities etched on their faces.
Colorist Aaron Viel brings a clever conceit to the table that complements the pencils and inks nicely. Namely, the landscapes and locations are handled with a heavily muted pallette, practically colorless, which makes the costumed superhumans in their brightly-colored costumes stand out all the more. There are a couple of points where the colors feel a bit flat when they could have used some more texture, but the basic idea works very well.
With its opening chapter, Long Gone brilliantly establishes this world and its protagonist. If the rest of the graphic novel is as good, you guys are in for a real treat in September. Get your pre-orders in now! Another triumph for Mark Bertolini, and all the creative team involved.
Long Gone will be released in September. Keep checking Markosia’s official website for details.