Oblivion Song #1
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist/Cover artist: Lorenzo De Felici
Colors: Annalisa Leoni
Letters: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Oblivion Song reads a bit like what might have unfolded had the entire town of Hawkins been sucked into the Upside Down in Stranger Things instead of just Will and Barb. But whereas Stranger Things was very much about atmosphere and character interaction, Oblivion Song, due to its more ambitious premise, is much more sociopolitical in its approach to storytelling. There are strong characterization elements as well, but the book, while boasting several strengths, is definitely most interesting thanks to its focus on the effect on the world outside the monstrous, surreal realm where the more action-oriented moments take place. This was a strong debut Issue, and writer Robert Kirkman continues to demonstrate that he’s a novel, skilled and intelligent storyteller.
Years ago, a small city in Pennsylvania disappeared, swallowed into an other-dimensional pocket of reality, where monsters are real and survival is questionable. Thanks to new technology, a brave and resourceful man named Nathan Cole was able to rescue a handful with people from that nightmarish landscape, but government support for his endeavors dried up and his success rate declined. New hope arises when he again finds a couple of survivors and works to reunite them with their family back in the real world.
Lorenzo De Felici’s artwork is unlike what one normally finds in a Robert Kirkman comic book. His style in the opening pages and other scenes set in Oblivion is quite exaggerated, and several figures are almost distorted in the way he elongates their forms. He tempers that approach in the scenes set in the regular world. His art is like an odd blend between the unrestrained, gangly figures of Kagan (Kaptara) McLeod and the simpler, more grounded lines of Rick (Batman, She-Hulk) Burchett. The action scenes in Oblivion are fast-paced and riveting, as they should be, and I really enjoyed the asymmetrical designs of the other-dimensional creatures. But the greater challenge (in which the artist succeeds) is the effort to portray the realism of the mundane world outside of the darkly imaginative cityscape from which the comic derives its title.
Given the success of The Walking Dead on television and the quick adaptation of Outcast for cable TV as well, I was surprised to find a premise that incorporated a much more ambitious and more challenging landscape to replicate from comics to other media. I was also pleased as well; it would take a major budget to bring Oblivion to life on the small screen, so it appears as though Kirkman didn’t have that in mind when crafting this story. Instead, what we get is a compelling comic book, and not a pitch for Hollywood (though I have no doubt there are producers who eye everything Kirkman creates, given his success in recent years).
As the central protagonist of the book, Nathan Cole is something of an archetype. He’s the driven action hero, determined to do right by those he cares about who find themselves in peril. He’s John McClane. He’s Ellen Ripley. As such, he’s fairly familiar, but he works well for a story such as this. More nuanced and interesting are the supporting characters, such as his aide Duncan, the survivor clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress; and Heather, his girlfriend and gateway to government resources.
The most interesting scene in the book is Nathan Cole’s meeting with a Washington bureaucrat to seek government funding to renew his efforts to rescue those trapped in Oblivion. The response to his request is somewhat predictable, but it’s interesting and how it reflects politics and policies here in the real world. One could easily see the same frustrating debate arising from those seeking to curb climate change and people in power expressing skepticism over the proven science. I think there’s even a parallel to be seen here in the renewed gun-violence debate in the United States. You see a man who’s lost a family member to an unimaginable tragedy butting heads with a bureaucrat who refuses to support an effort to save lives; I’m not suggesting this was intentional on Kirkman’s part, but I’m confident that his exploration of a lack of political will to solve real problems was definitely part of his message here. 8/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release March 7.