Material, the new Image comic written by Ales Kot (Secret Avengers, Zero) and illustrated by Will Tempest (Zero), is an introspective look at life and examines multiple lives experiencing critical turning points. Described as survey of the human condition, is this new series good?
Material #1 (Image Comics)
Material documents the lives of four unique individuals whose experiences or hardships either standout or symbolize the current state of our society. We have an actress with an addiction trying to salvage her career with a big film, a struggling professor who meets a curious friend, an adolescent in the midst of an urban struggle between citizens and police, and an ex-inmate dealing with PTSD. While all these cases are very unique to the mainstream comic plots, they all bear qualities that resonate with us and the world we live in today. However it’s apparent that Kot and Tempest are definitely taking a risk here.
This comic is dependent on the substance of the writing with the visuals not contributing much. Tempest uses a minimal color palette with scratchy sketches (Yes, that’s the correct art term. Scratchy sketches). Unfortunately it’s a bit hard to follow at times and that’s largely thanks to the art. The transitions are almost too smooth to recognize a change in environment and characters and depending on what’s depicted it’s almost impossible to recognize some of the previous characters (Notably the meeting between the actress and the producer; it’s quite difficult to determine who is who).
However what I can say is that the writing is quite good and I definitely commend Kot on his literary skills. While it can be a bit wordy at times, Kot is addressing some really thought provoking subjects with the inclusion of topical events such as police brutality, civil unrest, and evolution of humanity. This isn’t something to read to kill twenty minutes; you need to be engaged in the subject and have some patience in connecting who is who and what is going on.
What I found interesting was at the bottom of most pages are either names or article titles that Kot uses as an informal citation device. If a reader is interested in a topic being discussed on the page above, they can simply google the reference at the bottom of the page for more “material” on the subject. For example, on a page depicting a police riot it listed the names of three victims subject to police brutality. It’s a really creative concept that I personally have never seen before (But granted the majority of my comics are based on superheroes with no factual support surrounding them).
Is It Good?
Material can be classified as progressive and edgy, but that edge may come as a downfall to some. It definitely separates itself from the majority of comics out there currently and readers may receive it as a sight for sore eyes or something too inaccessible, especially for the comic medium. I personally enjoyed it and after sleeping on it and after reading it a second time I came away with a much better opinion of it than my initial reaction. This politically and philosophically driven series definitely stands out among the rest and I encourage readers looking for something new to give it a try.