THE RELAY #1, by Zac Thompson and Andy Clarke
ANDREW: The thing that really grabbed me about this first issue was the density, not just with the writing, which deals with some pretty heady issues, but also the art, which is a major selling point for this book. I can't think of an Aftershock book that had anything less than solid art, but the work here, by Andy Clarke, really stood out. There's a bit of Steve Pugh in the faces, with the detail of an Erik Burnham. It's a good combination--so good I'm a little surprised to see him working for a smaller publisher like Aftershock rather than one of the bigger companies. Aftershock EiC Mike Marts must be doing something right.
BEEN: I agree about the art. Artist Andy Clarke and colorist Dan Brown have done an outstanding job. There's a true sense of movement, of emotion, and yes definitely of density. Visually this story is packed full of kind of a stunning amount of information and imagery yet I wasn't overwhelmed. It worked. The art pulled me in and I felt it was a good match to the density of the writing. Which we should talk about because this story is not, by any stretch, a light-hearted throwaway romp far. It has depth and, I'm guessing/hoping, legs.
ANDREW: The comic touches on some pretty heavy stuff, featuring as it does an omnivorous uber-culture that arrives at other worlds and either assimilates or destroys them. It also deals with a semi-underground faith (if not a faith, it certainly has religious aspect) focused on a guy named Donaldson, whose world followers of "The Edict" are commanded to find. The Edict is transmitted from the Relay, the monolithic building that brings the uber-culture to other worlds, which you'd think would count for something. In spite of that, the faith of one of our protagonists, Security Officer Jad, who seems to be a legitimate believer in Donaldson and the First World, does not seem well-regarded by his colleagues, who see the Donaldson myth as a population control mechanism more than anything else.
Then again, it's possible Jad, despite his action-packed introduction, isn't intended to play the part of a hero. One of the issue's most disturbing sequences is Jad arguing in favour of absorbing/dominating other cultures in order to create a single reality. There's an interesting philosophical point in there, but it's being used in defence of obliterating worlds that don't toe the Relay's line. His unquestioning devotion to forced cultural assimilation doesn't exactly make him a heroic figure in my book.
BEEN: I would agree with your assessment of Jad here. It's difficult to tell if he's being set up as the hero figure or not given that this first issue lays so much groundwork for so many directions to be taken in the future. But I have a hard time considering devotion to any subsuming Borg-like overlord culture to be heroic. Then again, this story could go anywhere. If Donaldson is in fact real, how does that positively or negatively impact the 'faith' the Relay transmits and is set up to control? There are more questions than answers which, in my opinion, makes for a compelling start to the series. I have no true sense of where things are going in Relay but wherever it goes I want to read it. I'm intrigued.