Last month I praised the imagination of The Surface #1 but criticized its inaccessibility to its audience.
Can the second installment fix the confusion issues without losing any of the wonderful creativity behind every panel? Let’s find out. Is it good?
The Surface (Image Comics)
Right off the bat, The Surface #2 is perplexing. The issue begins with several pages of insane ramblings. I kid you not, there are pages of this comic that are no more than sentence fragments strung together to form some ideas that appear to be kind of provocative and intriguing but are just too obscure to be enjoyed. I was unable to understand much of anything in these first few pages, and that wasn’t for a lack of trying. I read and reread these pages, then read the rest of the issue, then went back and read parts of the first issue but still couldn’t make sense of any of it. By the end I had recorded myself reading the issue out loud thinking that maybe by listening to a human repeating the words it might become a little clearer. No luck.
I didn’t like reading The Surface #2 because I felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable for two reasons: A. I felt like I was being left out of some kind of “club;” some elite group of comic book connoisseurs that could understand that type of vague writing. B. I felt as though as a consumer I was being scammed. I payed for something that promised to be a story and it was simply not delivering on that promise.
However, this annoyance with abstract writing in comics isn’t something I’m always consistent about. I love Zero for some of the reasons that I dislike The Surface. For example, my father reads Zero as well, and although he enjoys some aspects of it, he claims to never totally understand what’s going on. I’m a little bit more of a pedant for details when it comes to comic books so I retain a lot more of the finite things (characters, little moments, lines of dialogue) than he, and as a result get a fuller experience. I feel as though I am getting more out of the comic and am a part of that “club” that I mentioned before because I can pick up a lot of what the author is putting down. So I do enjoy the bit of discomfort and the mystery of Zero because it is a puzzle that I am able to figure out, unlike my dad who just feels lost. It’s just that The Surface takes making an audience pleasantly confused over the top. If Zero is a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle, The Surface is an all-white 1,000 piecer which has no edge pieces and has pieces that don’t fit at all. It’s frustrating and not worth your four dollars.
That being said, Langdon Foss is a demon with a pencil. The fictional world of The Surface is so perfectly rendered with the correct amount of terror and beauty, and every creation within is breathtaking. Jordie Bellaire is one of my favorite artists in the industry currently, and that’s not without good reason. She elevates any comic, even one that is totally incomprehensible, by making the colors and inks perfectly reflect the mood and themes of the comic.
Is it Good?
No, not really. Despite some truly amazing artwork The Surface is just not a comic book that I can connect to. If you do understand this comic, I am extremely happy for you, but I just do not want to spend the money and effort trying to decode a comic book when there are so many great books out there that I am able to follow without contacting code talkers.