Created by Scott Chitwood
Script by Scott Chitwood, Paul Ens
Pencils by Wayne Nichols
Inks by Nick Schley
Colors by Marc Hampson, Andrew Dalhouse
Letters by Troy Peteri
Red 5 Comics
Cover price: $2.95; On sale Jan 23, 2008
Mmmmm… I do love me a bit of fine post-apocalyptic fiction.
The Terminator. The Matrix. Singularity 7. Mad Max. I Am Legend! There’s just something about the post-apocalyptic setting that fascinates me. No chance for a happy ending. The worst has already happened. The good guys lost. The world ended. What happens next? What stories are told in the aftermath? How do we, as a society and as a species, bounce back?
Well, according to Red 5’s latest release, Afterburn, we bounce with a healthy serving of pragmatism.
Afterburn gives us a look at the Earth one year after half the globe has been devastated by a sudden, massive sun-flare. Paris is burning. Hong Kong is flooding. And our protagonist, a Texan drifter by the name of Jake, is out to make a profit off of it. Jake is a member of an elite team of treasure hunters that makes their living by delving into the ravaged half of the world to retrieve lost items of extreme value for the highest bidder. Aside from the unforgiving terrain, Jake and his team are faced with countless dangers, such as the deformed mutant remnants of the ravaged populace, and, of course, zombie sharks.
Reading this book is like watching the most fast-paced post-apocalyptic horror action-adventure movie ever to hit the big screen. It’s like Escape From New York, Waterworld, and Dawn of the Dead all tossed in a blender and cranked up to eleven. Now, the question is: Is this a good thing?
For the most part, yes! The story is intriguing and the characters are distinctive and interesting. Jake has a very clear voice with a sort of devil-may-care drawl to it that instantly calls to mind every role I’ve ever seen Matthew McConaughey play (if the book ever gets optioned for a screen translation, there’s no need to guess who will be the first person offered the lead).
The supporting cast is given enough face time to show us that they’re people, though not really enough to get a solid idea of who they are. These are details that can be covered in future issues, after all, and who has time to dwell on the mundane when there’s high adventure afoot! The story jumps from one tense salvage mission to another, with little room in between for chit-chat. This both serves and detracts from the enjoyment of the issue because the pacing is so fast, it feels like it’s missing a few beats.
Despite this, the writing on the book is fairly solid, with a strong amount of that credit being given due to the characterizations. The script, by creator Scott Chitwood and Paul Ens, is truly written like an adventure movie, which means the dialogue and narration is crisp, informative, and easy to whip through. I enjoy the one-liners being thrown out by the characters, but I wouldn’t mind them reigning back a bit on the rampant pop culture references. It’s obvious that the writers want to connect us to the setting by mentioning things that are a part of our lives, but it happens so frequently that it ends up being distracting more than engaging. There’s also a certain cult appeal to these references that not everybody is gonna get, alienating the part of the audience who hasn’t seen Office Space or doesn’t know what Aint It Cool News is. Pop culture works only when everyone can connect to it. Everybody gets “I am your father.” Not everybody gets “TPS reports.”
Another thing that bugged me, at the very beginning of the story, was the disaster itself. Giant sun flare shoots off of the sun and washes half the Earth in fire? Cool! But, when we’re told that Jake was protected from this just by being deep down in the oil rig he was working on…? And then we see him actually popping his head up and watching people running around in the white light, skin melting off of them…? I found it a little tough to buy. A) The minute he shows his face top side, it should be melted off. B) The sun just spat fire on the Earth! Where are the drastic climate changes that should have been caused when half of the world’s oceans were flash-evaporated? The results are just too clean when you consider how utterly horrific something like that would be.
Still, I was able to push that to the back of my mind and enjoy the rest of the issue. Four pages of improbability does not a bad comic make.
The artwork by Wayne Nichols is simple and realistic and gets the job done. He handles the action well, but seems to get lost when it comes to drawing the mutant survivors. Some of them just look like generic zombie/vampires, while the ones that really do look like irradiated freaks all kind of look the same. Plus, love the design of his mutated shark, but I was a little let down by its arrival on the scene. Again, this comic plays like a movie! I wanted my Jaws moment! Or, perhaps more accurately, my Deep Blue Sea moment. But it was just sort of… there. Nothing special. No dynamic angles or anything.
(Do you hear me, Nichols?! I want my Deep Blue Sea moment!!!)
In the end, I’d say Afterburn is another successful launch by Red 5, and seems to follow in its predecessors’ footsteps by being not-quite-perfect, but holding the potential for greatness. If you’re a fan of ANY of the movies I mentioned above (or the one comic that I mentioned… did you catch the comic? If you did, you’re cooler than the others…), give this one a shot. You may enjoy. I certainly did.
Brief, but entertaining, I give Afterburn #1 a B+.