Twenty Seven #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Renzo Podesta
Letters: Shawn DePasquale
Cover artist: W. Scott Forbes
Editor: Kristen Simon
Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline imprint
Price: $3.99 US
Image Comics has been doing a great job of introducing new talent and new ideas into the comic-book industry, and this new comic, presented in Image’s oversized, magazine-style format (dubbed its Golden Age format), is the latest example of that trend. I hadn’t heard about this book until Bleeding Cool ran a piece about its rising value and speculator interest in it. The potential to own a valuable collectible isn’t what caught my attention though (I’m a reader, not an investor). What drove me to buy this comic book was the premise that the afore-mentioned website included in its brief coverage. The development of a mystery and an air of conspiracy around the fact that a number of talented rockers have died at the age of 27 appealed to me. Now, the plot in this first issue wasn’t what I expected — it’s supernatural and gothic in tone, whereas I pictured something else — but it was solidly entertaining and deliciously dark. It looks as though I’ve got to add another title to my regular pull list at the local comic shop.
Will Garland was on top of the world. He was the lead guitarist for the Fizz, and he was revered for his talent. What he could do with a guitar awed his audience, and while he had money and fame, what really sustained him was his music. But that was six months ago. Today, his talent is lost to him due to a rare nerve conditions he’s developed, and he’s spent his last penny searching the world over for a cure. On his 27th birthday, he takes a long shot, venturing into the strange domain of an unusual scientist who claims he can restore Garland’s gift. After a bizarre treatment and ritual, he finds the price he has to pay is steep… and surreal.
Renzo Podestra’s artwork looks like a blend of the styles of Rob (Chew) Guillory and Ben (Welcome to Hoxford) Templesmith. I had expected a more realistic style, in part due to the cover artwork. Still, given the weird, macabre elements that turn up in the story, the dark, exaggerated qualities of Podesta’s efforts work quite well. Podestra’s angular approach to character design is also in keeping with the harsh aspects of the story, and his dark, dreary colors add a lot to the atmosphere as well.
The reason this Twilight Zone-esque plot, complete with mad scientist, took me by surprise as I was expecting something more grounded or based in reality and music history. The protagonist of the piece is connected to such classic names in rock as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix by his age, so I was expecting references to those other tragic rock stories. That doesn’t happen, and since that was the hook on which the book was marketed, it struck me as rather odd. I guess they served as an inspiration for this story but don’t actually appear as plot elements (at least, not so far). Fortunately, the plot holds up well without those references in the script. The weird process (and the character offering it) that serves as the story’s catalyst is campy and delightfully gothic and weird.
The storytelling is quite efficient. Soule doesn’t spend time building Garland up in order to show us his fall from grace. He paints that picture succinctly in the exposition. Soule knows we don’t need to see Garland’s highs in order to appreciate his lows.
But what Soule’s script does better than anything, what makes this story compelling, is how well it conveys how important Garland’s music is to him. He’s desperate for a miracle cure and in denial about his plight not because he’s lost his status, fans and privilege, but because he’s passionate about making music. The writer achieves a nice balance with the character. It’s easy to feel sympathy for him, because he doesn’t come off as entitled or spoiled, but at the same time, his single-mindedness and blindness to other threats makes him the villain of his own story as well. 8/10
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