Regular readers of my reviews may recall Dream Reavers, the high-concept comic from Ape Entertainment whose intriguing first issue I gave a positive review for around a year ago. Well, the creative team of that title has mostly reunited, with writer Raphael Moran once again pairing up with the art team of Marc Borstel and Atul Bakshi (with the further addition of Ed Watson) and letterer E.T. Dollman for Flee, a new 4-part series for Arcana. The first issue is currently available from Comixology, and is set for a print release in January of the new year, but I was granted access to an advance collection of the whole series, and so I can positively report that the Dream Reavers team have returned with a comic that is considerably superior to their admirable previous effort.
The first chapter of Flee opens up with what appears to be a comedic slice-of-life story, chronicling the sad misadventures of Rigby Pinkerton: middle-aged, schlubby divorcee and all-around loser. We linger on him for a few pages before being catapulted into a seemingly non-sequitor shift to a totally different story set firmly within the sci-fi genre, immersing us in a war between two alien races out in the far reaches of space. It’s a bit of a “Huh?” shift, and Moran does a commendable job of sticking exclusively with the space opera epic story strand just long enough to make your average reader forget about the Earth-bound opening sequence, so that it makes for a good shock cliffhanger seeing how the two narrative threads entwine. I’ll admit that I saw the twist coming quite early on, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure if it’s even intended as a twist, but I won’t give it away just in case, as it was quite cleverly done.
Moran shows considerable skill as a writer in his ability to traverse these two quite distinct plot threads, and helps make the distinction less jarring by injecting notes of pathos into the comedy thread and unexpected comedic elements into the sci-fi arc. The humour is typically played pretty broad, but hey, I l found it funny. The whole thing is very economically paced and packed with incident, and so I found the four issues to be a brisk, easy read.
Marc Borstel and Ed Watson handle the bulk of the art, though Atul Bakshi handles the prologue sequence well. Ed Watson’s contribution seems to have been to give the art more of a cartoony feel than the more detailed and life-like aesthetic of Dream Reavers, which is appropriate given the more lighthearted nature of this story. In particular, the art team thrives with the design of the aliens, their armor and technology, and their spaceships, throwing in plenty of fun detail and texture. The storytelling and layouts are clearly handled, save for an extended fight sequence in the final chapter where, at points, I struggled to make out what was going on and who was doing what.
Mark Borsel’s coloring is a bit less successful. At some points, it’s fine: soft, textured, with a nice light pallette to complement the cartoony art. But at other points it just feels really rough, with heavy, flat layers slapped on the page without any real tone or nuance, and with some objects and even people at times colored in an obviously wrong shade. I’m usually a bit of a dunce when it comes to picking out art niggles like this, so if I noticed it, I can think of a few artist friends who’d be tearing chunks of hear out at such slipups.
Overall, though, Flee is an enjoyable comic. Raphael Moran continues to develop as a writer and grow more assured in his storytelling, backed by a solid creative team. This definitely seems like a fruitful partnership producing interesting, diverse work. I’d be open to see them all coming together for a third collaboration down the line.
Flee #1 is available to buy now from Comixology, and will go on sale in select comic stores in January.