The GeeksverseREVIEW Spotlight | Debris trade paperback (Image Comics)

REVIEW Spotlight | Debris trade paperback (Image Comics)
Published on Monday, February 4, 2013 by
Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s Debris is a triumph of concise and effective storytelling.
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Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Straightforward, affecting, effective, action-packed narrative with a strong focus on character.
  • Largely unobtrusive exposition.
  • Well-rendered organic-looking line art and colors.
  • Interesting character and environment designs.
  • Solid visual storytelling.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Story by: Kurtis J. Wiebe
  • Art by: Riley Rossmo
  • Colors and Chapter 3 and 4 finishes by: Owen Gieni
  • Letters by: Ed Brisson
  • Book design by: Jim Valentino
  • Format: 128 pages, full color, trade paperback. Reprints Debris #1–4, originally published in single magazine format in 2012.
  • List price: $14.99 (digital review copy provided by publisher)
  • Sale date: 06 February 2013

Preview (click on images to view in larger size)

Click here for more preview pages of the Debris trade paperback.

As comics’ readership—and indeed, the medium itself—grows more mature, writers and artists continue to develop their craft to keep pace. This relationship works both ways, of course: Many of the industry’s best writers and artists push the boundaries of the art form and not only entertain, but also challenge readers with their work. That being said, a tale predicated on established tropes and meeting certain conventions of the medium but executed with highly practiced polish, keen artistic flair, and elevated technical proficiency—free of excessive narrative gimmickry or needless stylistic gambles—is and should always be welcome. Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s Debris is one such tale.

debris_tpb_prev_12In Debris‘ far-flung future setting, water is scarce, the human race has been pushed to near-extinction by roving bands of homicidal sentient robots, and knowledge of most industrial manufacturing technology has been lost to the ages. The book’s protagonist is Maya, introduced as an apprentice to the Protector of the city of Maiden. When a robot attack leads to the destruction of the city’s water stores, Maya takes on the mantle of Protector and sets out in search of the fabled settlement of Athabasca, rumored to hold the world’s final reserves of fresh water, braving all manner of robotic and human threats while also learning about the world beyond the walls of Maiden.

The narrative is fairly straightforward—it has a prototypical hero’s journey plot and thematic elements that should be familiar to readers who’ve sampled, say, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy video games or Hayao Miyazaki’s work on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke—although it does have its fair share of twists (and the ending is fairly unexpected and quite gratifying if I do say so myself). This doesn’t prevent it from being any less affecting or entertaining, however. Wiebe’s taut, effective dialogue and facility with economical characterization makes it easy to become emotionally invested in Maya and her quest. We get to learn her motivations and what kind of person she is primarily through her actions and interaction with the book’s cast, and momentum-sapping, transparent exposition is kept to a reasonable minimum for the most part.

debris_tpb_prev_10With the growing trend of comics art being digitally shot “straight from the pencils,” the organic-looking visuals are refreshing to look at. While the finishes and the colors are more likely than not rendered digitally as with most modern comics, they nonetheless have a hand-rendered quality to them. The book’s use of the orange-and-teal color scheme so overwhelmingly common in contemporary popular entertainment can be quite oppressive at times, but this is a minor complaint. Character and environment designs are interesting, and while I haven’t read any interviews or statements from artists Riley Rossmo and Owen Gieni to substantiate this, I get the very strong impression that the robot designs, the book’s overall palette, and even the staging of some of the combat scenes between Maya and the robots were partially inspired by Ninja Theory’s work on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The visual storytelling is solid: perspectives and shot distances are appropriately varied, panel-to-panel transitions are fluid, character gestures, facial expressions, and silhouettes scan easily, and the occasional dutch angle mixes things up nicely.

Debris is an excellent title that might have been overlooked by the comic book community at large when it was originally released in 2012 alongside all the high-profile productions Image Comics put out in its 20th anniversary year. This trade paperback offers readers who missed out on Wiebe and Rossmo’s sci-fi work the chance to read the graphic novel-length exercise in concise and effective storytelling in its entirety in a handy and convenient format. Highly recommended.

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