I wanted to read Negative Space by artist Owen Gieni and writer Ryan K. Lindsay ever since it was first announced, as it has one of the best premises I have ever encountered from any piece of fiction: A struggling writer named Guy has every intention of killing himself, and the only thing stopping him is a case of writer’s block halting his suicide note. You could have stopped right there and I would already have been in the tank for this comic, but then when you tell me that there’s an evil organization in the background feeding off of people’s negative emotions and deliberately making Guy’s life miserable, and you’ve got me begging the other AIPT writers to let me review this.
So yeah, the concept is great, but what about the comic itself? Is it good?
Negative Space #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
It may seem odd that I’m sharing this in a comic book review, but it’s essential to understanding why I loved this comic so much: I have Depression. I’ve also been suicidal, in varying degrees of severity, at several points in my life. I don’t mean to alarm anyone; I’ve never attempted anything, nor have I ever made a plan, though I have been hospitalized for suicidal ideations.
My point is that Depression is something that I’m intimately familiar with, which is why it means so much to me that this comic gets it so right.
I’m also, like Guy, a struggling writer, and depressed creatives are, a unique breed of depressed people, which this comic also understands. I suppose that I shouldn’t be too impressed that a writer writing about writing can so resonantly portray the struggles of being a writer, but that doesn’t change the fact that I connected with this comic on a deep emotional level.
Make no mistake, Guy is a completely miserable character: he’s corpulent, unattractive, and has several terrible things happen to him over the course of this issue (albeit with the help of the evil Kindred organization). The comic does have a dark sense of humor regarding this misery, especially when it comes to Kindred’s meddling. They’re profiting off of the negative emotions that they’re causing, but it’s unclear at this point how or why.
But one of the great things that this comic does is that Lindsey and Gieni don’t make Guy a complete punching bag. Yes, we sometimes laugh at his expense, but it’s always “hahaha, that poor guy” and never “hahaha, what a loser.” We don’t know much about him yet, but we know that he has a good heart, and there is at least one person that seems to care about him.
Gieni style walks the line between surreal and realistic that’s well suited for a comic that mixes high-concept sci-fi with emotionally charged slice-of-life material. His figures and backgrounds are often weird and distorted, but never to the point of being confusing. Even brilliant artists (with similarly painterly styles) like Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz cross that line at times. His colors are effective too. For many colorists, the easy and sensible choice for a comic with such dark subject matter would be a muddy, dark palette, but Gieni understands that “colorful” doesn’t necessarily mean “bright.”
If I have a problem with this comic, it would be that I almost wish Lindsay and Gieni had stopped at “suicidal man with writer’s block” without getting into the sci-fi stuff. It’s not that I don’t like the science fiction elements, it’s just that Lindsay and Gieni pull of the more realistic, emotional stuff so well that I’m a little afraid that the more fantastical elements will become a distraction.
That said, I’m really only worried about the future of this series in the sense that I really, really hope that it lives up to the promise of its stellar debut issue. It has a doozy of a last page, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Is It Good?
Negative Space is the most promising new science fiction series I’ve encountered since Saga. If you’ve ever been depressed, or felt like the universe is conspiring against you, you need to pick this up.