Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Edison George
Colors: Parasuraman A.
Letters: Sudhir B. Pisal
Cover artist: Luke Ross
Editor: Gotham Chopra
Publisher: Virgin Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Though unfortunately sharing a title with a recent cosmic super-hero adventure published by Marvel Comics, this new Virgin Comics property — created by self-help guru Deepak Chopra — is an oddly grounded story about loss and desperation, with touches of mystery and spirituality to keep the plot moving along. After reading this first issue, I honestly have no idea what’s going on, but Ron Marz’s script is effective enough that I want to know and am eager to discover what happens next. Artist Edison George’s work is new to me, but his storytelling is solid. There’s something of a Twilight Zone riff at play in the story, and like many other Virgin releases, the script and plot also immerse the reader in Indian culture, fortunately in an accessible, gradual manner. Virgin’s comics have run hot and cold for me, but after sampling this introductory issue of Beyond, I’d have to say it’s the one of the publisher’s stronger offerings, second only to the recently relaunched Dan Dare.
The world finds itself plagued by horrific violence, and as news agencies postulate which terrorist organizations are responsible for which attacks, they’re unaware that it all started three months ago when an American businessman’s wife went missing during a business trip/family vacation to India. As husband Michael and teenage son Ty desperately search for the woman, they soon discover that something strange is going on beyond a simple missing-persons case. Ty has come into possession of a comic book that details their plight and search, filling pages in as they progress through the city. And Michael has a vision of a door that isn’t there, a portal to a different world and a different point of view that holds the secret to what happened to his wife and what’s about to happen to the entire world.
Edison George does some excellent work with the visuals for this book. His style reminds me a great deal of that of Igor (Smoke) Kordey, though there are a couple of moments when his art is also reminiscent of Chas (Animal Man) Truog’s work. George excels when it comes to bringing the exotic Indian backdrop to life, and along with Parasuraman A.’s colors, his somewhat rough style also conveys the hot, humid qualities of the environment as well. The colors also add a lot of energy and mystique to the “special effects,” reinforcing the cosmic/spiritual tone of the story without sacrificing the more down-to-earth core of the characters.
Luke Ross’s cover is lovely, but it goes awry in a couple of respects. First of all, his vision of the hero of the story, Michael, isn’t at all consistent with what we see inside the comic book. Furthermore, the transformation of his leg as he passes through some kind of portal would seem to spoil events in future issues. It certainly looks as though Michael will change into some kind of armored warrior hero when he crosses over to the other world that’s hinted at in this debut issue.
While I enjoyed the Indian cultural elements in this story, I’m at a loss to understand why it plays such a prominent role in so many of Virgin’s releases. It seems like the publisher is putting all of its eggs in one nation’s basket. Mind you, I understand it’s likely trying to carve out a niche that’s pretty much untouched in the Western comics market and take advantage of a huge potential audience overseas, but I’m left with the impression (though perhaps not an entirely accurate one) that there’s not a lot of diversity in the Virgin line.
What makes this story work is the characterization. Anna and Michael make for a nice balance. Michael is a jerk up until the moment his wife disappears, so Anna’s fascination and appreciation of the cultural and physical beauty around her is vital not only for us to enjoy her as a character, but her husband as well. Her kind and happy attitude tells us that Michael wasn’t always the career-obsessed crank he seems to be initially. When he’s forced to evaluate what’s really important, his devotion is clear. I’m not sure what to make of Ty yet, but his willfulness, tempered with a touch of innocence apparent in his ease in believing the impossible, make for an intriguing player in the drama. 7/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release May 28.