My friend Bullseye Joe is concocting his first foray into comics writing and was loaned the first three issues ElECTRONiC by writer and creator Joe Corallo, a local patron of Collectors Kingdom. I plan to purchase these three comics from Corallo in support of the work he and his art team are creating. Don’t let my response to issue one discourage you; the story and content only get better issue-by-issue and number three really knocks it out of the park with its wow-factor.
Reading Issue 1
Synopsis: On the run from Elec 3.0, (cyborg or robot—not yet sure) Carly, aka Elec 2.9, is in danger of being replaced by the latest upgrade in software and hardware. She must use all her cunning and skills to avoid a similar fate to that of her predecessor.
Think Ghost in the Shell mates with Blade Runner while holding hands with Pinocchio who is watching A.I. We’ve got artificially intelligent robots (or cyborgs, not sure), creator/father figures, and corporate heads interested in only power and influence.
The art: The coloring and effects by Andrew Prichinello and Steve Bonge color are often appealing. They help make up for the interior art that often resembles 1980s’ indie comic art that makes me think of static anime (I do not consider manga to be static anime). It might be an issue of polishing the pencil work a bit, some artistic growth when it comes to portraying motion, or perhaps the inking is what gives it a sort of flat feel at times. Flat, that’s what I often think of when it comes to ‘80s B&W indie comics. Then again it might be a combination of the inking (assuming the book is inked at all by artist Danny Luckert) and coloring that often work, but at times fall flat.
The art does have merit though, especially in panel where protagonist Carly receives a data upload and her eyes are mostly rolled into the top of her head while still open is fantastic and conveys a sort of para-consciousness that very much fits the action of the panel (see image below).
The writing and art combined: The text boxes representing background dialogue are off-putting at times. Unattributed word balloons would work better for such dialogue. In places the dialogue exchanges between characters doesn’t flow logically from left-to-right, top-to-bottom, as a reader would expect. It might be beneficial to the reader for the writer and artist to consider the placement of characters in a setting, specifically each panel, so the flow of dialogue reads as the one would expect, right to left, top to bottom, without what I’d call backflow, making reading the dialogue unnecessary brainwork at times.
ElECTRONiC has a bit of a Ghost in the Shell dystopian future feel, which is often a good way to hook a fan of sci-fi. Corporations are nations in this future and Rand Nation seems to make assassin robots (or are they cyborgs?) that must kill their predecessor as each upgraded model is completed and somehow this is how they assert their dominance over other nations. I’m not yet psyched, but I am curious what happens in the next issues…
Reading Issues 2 and 3
And then I read issues two and three back-to-back and I’m wondering how long I’m going to have to wait for issue four. Like I wrote, it gets better—damn better.
Possible Influences: While I can probably name a number of influences on the creation of the premise and probably what are sort of archetypal characters in these futuristic, corpratacracy cyborg/robot stories, Corallo manages to give readers a really fascinating look at the mysterious facility/world in issue three. Artist Danny Luckert, along with colorist Alexandra Zambetti absolutely astonish as protagonist Carly frees herself from captivity and meanders about the facility that isn’t static, but changes a la The Matrix from one setting into another. It reminds me a but of the silent “‘Nuff Said” issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men in which Jean Grey and Emma Frost wander around the ever-changing mindscape of Professor X, whose head is also occupied by the mind if his genocidal twin sister. It’s an amazing issue and for me to compare ElECTRONiC 3 to it is definite praise. Regardless of the influences, this issue is its own piece of artistic astonishment.
Character design: While Carly explores the facility, a sort of gestating, skinless cyborg awakens and escapes his “womb,” which includes mind-fuck moments where the cyborg declares Carly his “mother” and this is beautifully rendered by the art team. The facial expressions are strong in this issue, especially on baby ‘borg, who just looks creepy with no skin, with muscle and tendons on bone and metal, so close to human, yet so monstrous. Fantastic character design (see image below).
I’m also in love with the design of whoever is in charge of the facility, with white-garbed and possibly masked humanoid figure, perhaps a freed cyborg, perhaps a human, with her creepy sort of Joker-ized face. I also love the plain white uniforms on the baton guards who beat the baby ‘borg into submission during his initial “birth.” Something about the wrinkles in their uniforms remind me of a sort of thick, heavy vinyl that is probably appropriate for working in a sterile facility with biological and electronic components (see above image).
There are still moments where the art feels ‘80s indie, but that is greatly overshadowed by the awesomeness of the concepts masterfully portrayed on the pages that are sort of like Alice in Wonderland, during which we learn that a supposed benefactor of Carly seems to have a hidden agenda.
On a minor note regarding the lettering by Steve Bonge (and in issue one, also Justin Lindsey), it’s not as crisp as it could be, though this may be from the printing done by www.comicbookprinting.com. There are occasional spelling and grammar mistakes and the commas sometimes look more like periods and impede a smooth reading of dialogue in places. I’m not sure how the book is being lettered, but if digitally, is there not a spell check option available if a program is being used?
I don’t want to end the review on the downer, so I’ll refer you to issue 3’s cover. It’s simple and yet awesome. I love this colorful little bird appearing in this black and white labyrinth, likely representing Carly’s foray into the rabbit hole.
I anxiously await the next issue and hope all of these great comic shops that awesomely carry small press and indie books, Atomic Books in Baltimore, Locust Moon in Philly, Velocity Comics in Richmond, and Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte, will carry this excellent title. I can’t wait to see how the story and the creators evolve in the coming months and years.