I loved Negative Space #1, and I couldn’t stand having to wait over two months to read the next installment of writer Ryan K. Lindsay and artist Owen Gieni’s 4-part science-fiction miniseries. Now the wait is finally over. Is it good?
Negative Space #2 (Dark Horse Comics)
Now that I’ve seen this summer’s excellent Inside Out, it’s hard to avoid comparisons between Pixar’s brightly-colored, family-friendly allegorical animated film about a ten-year-old girl’s struggle to understand her emotions and Dark Horse’s dark, violent science-fiction comic about a struggling writer’s figurative and literal battle with Depression. I don’t want to spend the whole review on that comparison, but aside from their thematic similarities and comparable excellence, one notable quality that they both share is proof that a lack of subtlety does not necessarily equate to a lack of nuance.
You don’t need to be an English professor to understand, for example, that the creatures known as Evorah represent our world’s fascination with negativity, because it’s pretty much spelled out for us in expository dialogue that “our tragedy became worshiped.” Yet Depression can be a complicated beast, and Ryan K. Lindsay is smart and sensitive enough not to reduce mental illness to such a crude metaphor.
This is a fictional world where, although there are external forces creating and feeding off of our negative emotions (namely the antagonistic Kindred corporation), these emotions can still come from within. Lindsay—who may have surprised some readers by revealing in my interview with him that he does not suffer from Depression himself — understands and acknowledges the difference between sadness, the emotion, and Depression, the mental illness. Sadness is universal, but Depression is not. As such, Guy is relateable enough to still function as an everyman of sorts, but his experience is treated as unique and special. He’s an empath, “a glorious sponge that stores and feels emotion like no one else,” and therefore, a target of Kindred, the Evorah, and the resistance forces trying to restore happiness to the world.
As thematically strong as this issue is, it may disappoint some readers that it’s such a shift from the first issue. That debut was more of a character study, seducing the reader with moodiness and mystery right up to the “wait, what!” last page. After the first few pages of this sophomore issue, readers should be able to figure out just what the hell the story is about, at least plot-wise (which is not to say that the conflict is resolved). It becomes a much different comic, one that focuses more on moving the plot forward with action and exposition, rather than atmospheric brooding. Some readers may not like the tonal shift, but I respect Lindsay and Gieni for taking the creative risk. Still, I hope that we learn more about Guy in the next two issues, because this issue focuses more on developing his world than his characterization.
Once again, Owen Gieni knocks it out of the park art-wise. He immediately proved his knack for tension and atmosphere in the first issue, but here he shows that he can draw a great action scene to boot. We’re lucky that he chose comics as his medium, because he draws the kinds of pages that you can show to a non-comics fan and have even the uninitiated admit that it’s brilliant. Yet Gieni retains a clarity in his layouts and panel-to-panel sequencing that many similar artists lack. I can’t wait to see his next project, but I can’t imagine that he’d be able to pull off a consistent ongoing series. Already, we had to wait two months for this issue rather than the traditional one, and that’s probably because Gieni’s painterly style must take a hell of a lot of time and effort. That’s not to mention the fact that he does his own coloring, which is also excellent.
Speaking of waiting, holy s--t, we have to wait until JANUARY 27TH to get the next issue? That’s not conducive to mental health, Owen and Ryan. It better be worth it. But I have no doubt that it will be.
Is It Good?
Negative Space #2 may be a much different comic than the first issue, but that doesn’t make it any less great. This is one of the most thematically rich pieces of sci-fi that you could hope to read, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Don’t miss out.