Friday, February 24, 2012

The Light (comics)

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Brett Weldele
Collects: The Light #1-5

I picked this one up largely because the striking cover caught my eye and I figured what the hell.

Story's pretty simple. We meet a welder who had just lost his job. He's pretty far from a good person; apparently, when his life went to hell, he went all Chris Brown on his wife - which is why they separated - and he's also an alcoholic. His teenage daughter lives with him and his mother for some odd reason - dad's rarely get custody, even if they're the most fit to raise them, which this dude definitely isn't - and it's all set up quickly in the first half of the first issue.

At this point, his old boss comes screaming in the dead of night about lights coming on and people spontaneously combusting. Then a street light comes on and he spontaneously combusts. Our "hero" is saved by his welders goggles. Figuring this is probably not the time to be hanging around the suburbs, he grabs his daughter and blows dodge, because despite the fact that he's kind of a scumbag he does love his kid.

From the opening setup, it's pretty straightforward up until the end. Standard apocalypse scenarios; get supplies, try to find family members at such and such place, bickering and infighting, you know the drill. It's mostly about the father, despite being an asshat, wanting to save his kid and the lengths he'll go to do it. It feels fairly realistic - his teenage daughter borderline hates him and doesn't respect him, which, you know, is understandable considering he smacked her mother around - and the two define dysfunction. There's little else to the book though.

Edmondson takes the Robert Kirkman route of not bothering to really explain what's going on, letting the questions just hang in the air. It's a pretty fair choice, but at the same time the concept is a bit out there and could use a bit of definition. He tries to establish some ground rules - apparently, the light has to hit the eyes or something and the effects only come from something that receives its power from the power grid - but it's mostly for the purpose of giving the dad an option to try and stop the crisis in the immediate vicinity to save his kid. None of that really explains why looking at a light will make somebody burst into flames. Doesn't make much sense to me; probably why he wanted to dodge explaining it.

Given the simplicity of the overall story, I think five issues was kind of pushing it. Obviously Edmondson needed time to establish the father-daughter dynamic, but there are parts where I got a bit of a feeling of killing time. If compacted a bit more - say, three issues - I think the story might have been a bit more punchy; you know, goes in, gets the job done and leaves with a bit of an impression made. As it is, the book is a brisk, fast paced read, so it's not particularly glaring, but I can't help but think it went on a bit too long without anything really "happening".

There's a text piece in the back where Edmondson gives his thoughts on the story and what he was aiming for. He was gunning for tension and horror through use of the fact that we're all connected these days; he probably should have gone with the internet for it, but I suppose power lines do the job. It's a fairly neat concept, for sure, but it's a bit of a minor theme; I think if it were played up more in the story instead of being mostly explained in the text piece this book would have stood a bit taller.

As it stands it's a breezy read with some nice art that's a perfectly acceptable way to kill an hour.

The Score: 7 out of 10

I think this book had more potential, but it's still a decent, inoffensive read. You could skip it and not miss a whole lot, but you won't feel lesser for checking it out. Give it a read if the concept interests you.

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