Reviewed this week: Chris Sebela and Jonathan Brandon Sawyer’s We(l)come Back #1 and Scott Kolins’ Adam.3 #1. [SPOILER WARNING: Reviews may contain significant spoilers]
Adam.3 #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Publisher’s description: Award-winning writer/artist Scott Kolins (Past Aways, The Flash, The Avengers) premieres his first original comic book creation: ADAM.3! A man born into a futuristic island utopia fights to save his troubled family as terrifying visions of a monstrous doom foretell the end to his Eden! Can Adam and his family survive S.E.E.D.S.?
Scott Kolins channels the nigh-manic energy and creativity of 1970s-vintage Jack Kirby in the first issue of Adam.3, a new five-issue miniseries that also marks the superhero comics veteran’s creator-owned comics debut.
Taking a cue from Kirby’s attempts to interpret the topoi of classical myth through the metaphor of wild science fantasy, Kolins sets Adam.3 in a futuristic Eden where the eponymous protagonist serves as the benevolent leader of a diverse community of sapient, talking animals. The comic is founded on a fun (if somewhat vague) premise, made ripe with the potential for narrative tension by the foreshadowing of some great disaster meant to evoke the biblical Adam’s fall from grace.
Adam.3’s neologism-littered, stylized dialogue also calls to mind the quirky semantic prosody that occasionally undermined the clarity of Kirby’s New Gods, The Forever People, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, and The Eternals. I suspect, however, that this is “a feature and not a bug”—Kolins’ callback to a bygone era of comics-writing, if you will—although whether younger readers unfamiliar with Bronze Age science fantasy and science-fiction comics will appreciate this is open to question.
It is the comic’s art, however, that will stay with the reader, long after the idiosyncrasies of the script have been forgotten. Adam.3’s pages are designed in landscape orientation, wider than they are tall, and Kolins—who is responsible for both the line art and the color art—takes full advantage of the reconfigured real estate with impressive establishing shots and, in one instance late in the issue, a “widescreen” panel that simultaneously depicts three consecutive events through inventive, dynamic composition. The landscape orientation offers an additional practical benefit for the digital comics reader: It requires less scrolling for those perusing on standard computer monitors. Kolins’ palette is vibrant almost to the point of garishness, but such saturated hues are necessary to stand up to the power of the bold ink line that is his signature.
We(l)come Back #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Publisher’s description: Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of different lives throughout time, caught up in an eternal cycle as they take part in a war so old that neither side remembers what they’re fighting for anymore. As Mali wakes up in her newest life, she suddenly becomes self-aware and starts to question everything, especially why she continues to fight. But elsewhere, Tessa is already on the hunt…
The first issue of We(l)come Back sees writer Christopher Sebela revisiting a theme familiar to those who have been following his work on Ghost (Dark Horse Comics), High Crimes (Monkeybrain Comics), and the severely underrated Dead Letters (BOOM! Studios): That of death and rebirth.
Whether by coincidence or design, in those three prior works, the protagonist undergoes actual or metaphorical demise, and then embarks on a perilous journey towards renewal and reawakening. Such seems to be the case again in We(l)come Back, a new four-issue miniseries that features reincarnation as one of the narrative’s primary conceits. For those interested in a metatextual reading of the work, it does seem to hint at a subtle deconstruction of the repeating, serial nature of the comics medium at large (and Sebela’s own comics work in cameo). I want to say that this might be where Sebela’s major comics works have been leading to all this time, but I’ll need to learn more about the project’s background before making such a weighty pronouncement.
Considered as an entry point to a self-contained, standalone work, this first issue serves well enough. Sebela’s decision to use first-person narration as the primary exposition device leads to occasionally cluttered, text-heavy pages—a slightly decompressed approach would have made for a less hectic reading experience. Then again, there are only so many pages in a single issue for the necessary tasks of introduction and world-building, and I trust there’s a good reason why Sebela is front-loading all of this information.
A relative newcomer to the comics industry, We(l)come Back artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer nonetheless impresses with polished technique that belies his modest bibliography. He mixes up robust page design, dynamic “camera” placement, and excellent rendering skills with the occasional gimmicks—dutch angles, overlapping panel elements, irregular (and even non-existent) panel borders, multiple double-page spreads—making for a propulsive aesthetic that keeps the weight of the necessary exposition from sapping the narrative’s momentum.
Solid work all-around, a must-read for fans of Sebela’s prior comics work, and as good an introduction to his growing oeuvre as anything he has written in the past.