Writer/Artist/Colors/Cover artist/Letters: Ken Krekeler
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I have no idea why creator Ken Krekeler opted to call this series Dryspell, as the plot and ideas in this first issue don’t seem to connect with that term in any way, but I suppose it was a good choice. “Dryspell” was catchy enough of a title to grab my attention when Action Lab touched base by email to offer me a chance to look at a digital review copy. What I found was a well-designed, dark and offbeat take on the super-hero genre. Mind you, these more mature spins on the caped crowd are a dime a dozen these days, but Krekeler’s approach to both the art and the script really draw in the audience. I’ve found that lately, I’ve been attracted to darker, bleaker bits of fiction for my entertainment fixes, and Dryspell certainly fits the bill, though it boasts just a hint of black humor, of self-deprecation that helps it stand apart, if only a little bit. The other thing about the book that’s intriguing is how surprisingly relatable it is, as it touches on professional ennui, a sense of being directionless in life, and the challenge of finding and staying true to oneself. I’m at a point in my life at which I have a lot going for me — family, a home, a career I enjoy — but it wasn’t always that way. Anyone who’s felt adrift in his or her own life will find Dryspell to be something of a mirror, even if it’s a reflection of the past.
Tom toils away in a cubicle so like many other dozens, hundreds, even thousands of office workers in a short radius around him, and like so many corporate drones, he daydreams of better things, of bigger things. In his case, though, it’s a little more than daydreams — it’s memories. Tom used to be extraordinary, used to be one of those god-like figures he now watches on the news, but it’s a life he left behind. But when someone recognizes him in his civilian life, it begins a domino effect that will either unravel his life or bring new meaning to it.
What dominates the first page of this comic book are inky black panels adored with bright, white letters that slice through that darkness and grab the reader’s attention. The design of the font for those white letters is very much in keeping with the intense, mature tone of the narration. It’s an effective visual and adds a tone of voice to the writing. As soon as I read that first panel, I realized I’d stumbled upon a comic that was going to hold my interest. I really enjoyed the lettering throughout this comic book. Krekeler has settled on a font employing both upper- and lower-case characters, in the vein of Marvel’s Ultimate line of titles. But the letters here are a bit rougher in tone, reflecting a bit of an edge that’s in keeping with the subject matter.
Krekeler’s artwork establishes an effectively downtrodden, sullen tone throughout the book. His portrayal of characters’ faces is slightly inconsistent at times, but his loose style nevertheless conveys a fairly realistic tone when it comes to body language. His use of color is impressive, from the muted tones earlier in the comic to the river of psychedelic colors flowing through the nightclub/acid-trip scenes.
The tone of Dryspell reminds me of that of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s Alias, both in terms of the writing and the artwork. The central character is a bit broken like Jessica Jones was in Alias, and he’s also a formerly super-figure who’s retreated into civilian life. I’d be quite surprised if Alias wasn’t a major influence on Krekeler, but I must also point out that he’s hardly aping that Marvel/MAX private-eye title. I’m just saying that thematically, the two comics share a similar tone.
Another theme that emerges in this debut issue (which was released earlier this year, by the way) is the notion of being unable to go home again. I’m in my 40s, and these days, I often find myself reminiscing about the old days, the partying days, with old friends. But to replicate that fun, it just isn’t in me anymore. Not only can I not maintain the physical requirements of late nights at bars and the old rate of imbibing, but those same revelries don’t hold the same appeal. Here, we see Tom reconnecting with a crowd of people he’d left behind, and he just can’t keep up anymore. It’s yet another element in this comic that stands out as quite relatable — at least for a middle-aged fart like me. 8/10
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