Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
David Lebovitz is reading…
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Eryk Donovan
Colors by Dee Cunniffe
Letters by Jim Campbell
“And in a few generations, we’ll be something new. Something close to perfect. And it all starts here. It all starts today.”
Eugenic #1 is the best exposition issue I have read in years. It is the first issue of a three part miniseries about the genetic altering of humanity, each issue told years apart. It is something you need to add to your pull list this instant—especially if you’re a fan of sci-fi, body horror, and the ethics of science. The last one might seem a little out of place, but it’s the central conceit of the series, and when played with, it can be more horrifying than any jump scare.
Eugenic takes places several decades into the future. A virus has spent years infecting the population, sending the sick to pariah camps while the wealthy make hospitals into lavish hospices. All children born to people affected by the virus are stillborn. A vaccine is eventually made to cure the illness. The issue begins in earnest with Dr. Cyrus Crane, the man who developed the vaccine, getting interviewed. He discusses his views on life, and how humans have a natural tendency to other those in times of fear and crisis. One of his central points he focuses on is how different people experienced 9/11—his white mother saw the best of humanity as people came together, while his Arab husband’s family experienced discrimination in the same city. When the first baby born post-vaccine comes out with a seeming serious deformity, Crane is asked to explain. That’s as much as I’m willing to divulge—the rest is worth it.
This is a dialogue heavy issue. There aren’t many snappy one liners. There’s not much in the way of intense action. It’s a careful walk down a dark path that knows just when to lurch. There are a few splash pages, but each of them is genuinely shocking, and each is the endpoint of dialogue. It’s the original point splash pages were made for—something so big, so shocking, it needs to have its own one page panel. As horrifying as the opening concept is, it’s only a set-up. Seeing the first splash page where we’re shown the first baby born after the vaccine was administered elicited a genuine gasp from me. Eryk Donovan’s art feels familiar most of the time, but he knows just how and when to make something alien enough to get a reaction. Dee Cuniffe’s colors only add to it, they’re real but just off enough.
Like more good horror and/or sci-fi, Eugenic explores the logical endpoint of common debates happening today. Eugenics, as the title implies, wades into genetic alteration. There’s always talk about eliminating mental disorders and diseases, but what if that same process affected sexual orientation and race? I’d love to dive in more but I don’t want to spoil this comic for you. I hope the following issues live up to this one—there’s so much at play here that would benefit a longform examination.
Eugenic is a solid mix of body horror and sci-fi both hard and soft. It feels impossible, but also just real enough. It’s the dictionary definition of uncanny—it feels close enough to reality to cause discomfort, but in the best way. This is one of the best comics I’ve read in a while. I’m having a hard time coming up with any kind of meaningful criticism. Pick it up. It’s not for the squeamish, but it’s good and it feels important. I don’t know how many others ways I can say it: read this comic.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Al Ewing
Penciled by Javier Rodriguez
Inked by Alvaro Lopez
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“And why DON’T you, anyway? Don’t you WANT your sister to find lasting happiness?”
Royals has been a well-written but visually unremarkable book for seven and a half issues and now, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez and Jordie Bellaire are here to blow this fucking joint wide open. This is a big, heady, cosmic series that demands big, heady, cosmic art, and fresh off some gorgeous runs on Spider-Woman and Daredevil, Rodriguez is bringing his Ditko-inspired style (the school of Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido) from the streets to the stars, and it looks goddamn great.
Ewing’s been killing it on the character work and plot mysteries for a while now, but it’s felt like a little sibling to the more creatively focused and, well, gorgeous Black Bolt due to the rotating cast of Studio Cliffhanger-esque artists that never felt like a tonal match for the material. Jonboy Meyers, Kevin Libranda and Thony Silas are all talented artists, but they’re by and large action artists, while a book like this needs a greater ability to portray wonder and majesty without violence. Rodriguez gets this.
Lopez has inked Rodriguez for his entire career so I find it impossible to discern where one artist ends and the other starts; whatever the creative relationship, the end result is consistently excellent. Jordie Bellaire continues her improbably prolific streak of coloring seemingly every book on the market for artists as wildly different as David Finch, Rafael Albuquerque, and Rodriguez. For the first time, the creative team of this book is on an even keel, and the results are great.
As the plot zeroes in on the Progenitors, the originators of the Kree, we get to see crazy new designs for cosmic gods and world-farms of mass-generated planets alongside the same great character acting and ornate layouts that made Rodriguez’s previous street-level work so visually remarkable. It’s a strong fit for the Inhumans and for Ewing’s heady but reverent Busiek/Morrison mash-up style, and pretty much solves all existing issues I had with the title. Royals is out of the chrysalis, and even if it’s steering towards a conclusion, I have high hopes that the teaming of Ewing and Rodriguez will continue far into the future.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!