In the indie comic Age of Revolution, by Cosmic Anvil, the forces of science and magic are waging war. Or at least, that’s what the tagline says. Do the first five issues follow-up on that premise? Is it good?
Age of Revolution #1-5 (Cosmic Anvil)
It’s unclear if author Huw Williams is alluding to the historic “Age of Revolution” that encompassed the American and French rebellions with this book’s title. Sadly, most everything about this book is unclear.
Age of Revolution #1 opens with a space whale that has a three-story building on its back. Not sure if that is part of the “science” or the “magic.” Imprisoned inside is our main character — or so you’d think — Takeo Cooper. Text dutifully informs us he is “p***** off,” in case you couldn’t tell. There are some neat uses of facial expressions and panel transitions before we flash back to Cooper’s origin story, which is sort of like Dragon Ball Z meets X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
At an undetermined time in the past, Cooper lives alone in the woods, where he kills a bear with a single blow. He carries the beast home over his shoulder, a good, subtle introduction to his superhuman strength. Upon returning to his cabin, Cooper finds an old man and immediately tries to fight him. Calm down; maybe he’s lost? If you’re that strong, does the geriatric mustache-twirler pose that much of a threat?
As you might have guessed, yes, he does, as the visitor lays a senior citizen smackdown on Takeo, after which they’re of course best friends. Aaaaand … that’s the end of the first issue.
There are a lot of problems here, chief among them being that we don’t even get a hint of what the story’s tagline promises. I understand a slow build, but you’ve got to at least tease something. So far all we see is a standard kung fu story that apparently also involves an orbital, cetacean jail cell.
Even the things we do see aren’t presented that well. It’s fine to work in just black and white, but artist Hannah Collins’ lines look unfinished somehow, and the switch between between panels with backgrounds to those without doesn’t help the feeling that the project was scratched out and scanned in a hurry. There are even simple typographical and language errors in the lettering that could/should have been caught on the first editorial pass.
The second issue is largely composed of a training montage that seems ripped straight out of Kill Bill, down to the laughing master and the spilled bowls of food. The old man Cooper fought in issue #1, who we find out is from the military, informs Cooper that his master, who sent him to live in the woods for some reason, has died. Apparently this is enough for Takeo to take on the stranger’s mission of fighting an alien invasion or somesuch. It’s hard to tell, because the lettering size is so inconsistent — not for emphasis, but just so that more text can be crammed into certain panels. Either say what you need to more succinctly or break it up, man.
I do like how some of the panels flow together here, but I can’t help but think this and the first issue could have been combined to make the whole thing feel less wispy. There aren’t as many grammatical errors in #2, but there are some big gaps in logic. Cooper’s master says that a student can never surpass him, but then tells Takeo the exact opposite toward the end. If this is not a mistake and is meant to be some revelatory moment, it falls flat in execution.
Each of the first two issues is about 18 pages, I think; it’s not always easy to discern. The next three issues are all 12 or 13 pages. Another weird inconsistency that makes you feel like you’re getting even less than you were before. A brand new, seemingly vital protagonist is introduced in the third issue, and if the final page of issue #2 is any indication, we’ve got at least two more to go — neither of whom is seen by the conclusion of issue #5.
A journalism professor once told me it’s unfair to make your readers wait too long. If you’re going to promise a concept (still no sign of science vs. magic) and a bunch of characters, you have to at least introduce them early so the audience can wrap their heads around what’s going on. Takeo Cooper and Caesar Fletcher’s stories could have easily run in parallel, and it would have made the first couple issues feel more substantial. Again, a slow build can be great, but if there’s nothing there to begin with, when you get to the good stuff, the reader is left with a “Huh?” rather than an “Oh!”
Is It Good?
There are more creatively original concepts in the later issues than in the beginning, but it’s not enough to save this version of Age of Revolution. I say “this version” because between the hasty art, the simple errors and the awful pacing, it’s clear the whole thing needs to go back in the oven for a few more drafts. Age of Revolution reads like a brainstorming session that was jotted down in a hurry and then sold on Comixology for four bucks a pop. Now that’s truly unfair.
That’s kinda cool, I guess.
I understand the desire to “just get something out there,” but everyone who takes this path needs to remember this is an advertisement for you — it should be the best thing you can possibly do. There are glimmers of interesting storytelling in Age of Revolution, so I don’t think this is the best Williams and Collins can muster.
But then again, Revolution isn’t exactly breaking new ground or telling us anything about the human condition. Thus far it’s just a slightly tweaked sci-fi story, with some neat imagery hung on the usual tropes, so maybe that really is all the creative team has in the tank. I could almost forgive the thrown-togetherness of it all if Age of Revolution was obviously a passion project, but it comes off more as a poor reproduction of what’s already be done. If Williams and Collins ever decide to retool this, I hope they lean more into the weird ideas introduced later and forego the training montages and anti-heroes predictably going straight.