Back during Comic-Con in July, there was this massive and exciting announcement made regarding DC Comics’ Vertigo Line. A whole slew of brand new books from different creators was coming, some well-known and some not, starting in October. Survivor’s Club is the first of this group of comics, so let’s give it a look. Is it good?
Survivors’ Club #1 (Vertigo Comics)
According to the solicitation for this first issue, the plot goes something like this:
Having found each other over the internet, six grown-up survivors are drawn together by the horrors they experienced in 1987 when a rash of occult events occurred around the world—with fatal results. Now, there are indications that it may be happening all over again. Is it possible that these six aren’t just survivors—but were chosen for their fates?
Sadly, the results are not nearly as promising as the solicit sounds. Survivor’s Club #1 is a mess of a first issue. It has a terrific premise going for it, where victims of horror events from the 80’s (think of these events as things you would see in horror films) are getting together to discuss their problems and try to figure out what caused these incidents in the first place. What is the connection between them all? How has their past trauma affected them? Stuff like that, which all sounds like it could be really good.
Politicians were right! Video games are evil!!!
The problem is in the execution. Writers Lauren Beukes (she wrote the best story arc from Fairest, which involved Rapunzel) and Dave Halverson (who has no past comic book writing experience) for whatever reason just can’t seem to properly put together this story. It feels like it is always on fast forward, constantly moving and not letting the story stop for a single second. It delivers a lot of information quickly, sometimes glossing over certain aspects it just introduced or jumping ahead to another point without properly building it up. Beukes and Halverson never let a moment happen or let the audience or story breathe, leaving some parts feeling rather underdeveloped. Take for instance the opening scene, where the characters meet for the first time. A lot of exposition is given out, but you don’t get the time to fully take it in, and the panels and characters always feel like they are jumping ahead in the script. It feels so awkward and unnatural, like you ended up missing page or panel somewhere along the way.
This problem persists throughout the entire comic and really dampens the experience, even extending into the rest of the writing. The characterization is dealt out very quickly and even then, you don’t feel like you get enough time to learn about these characters. You get vague ideas about each of their character and their problems, but you never get invested or come to understand their situation or motivation. The dialogue and narration are awkward, as is the structure. No one talks naturally during any of their interactions with each other and story just constantly jumps randomly from scene to scene without any thought or idea (and it gets worse as time goes on). The comic isn’t really scary or unnerving due to how rushed everything feels, even if some of the art looks creepy. Probably the saddest thing is that there is potential here in this mess. A lot of the ideas and revelations are not bad ones, such as the cliffhanger at the end or how there may be this great evil lodged in a video game’s code. There are things to like here, but the writing is just bad from beginning to end.
The best thing the comic has going for it is the artwork by Ryan Kelly, who drew another Vertigo comic called Saucer Country (a personal favorite of mine). He’s great with his line work, drawing all of these characters uniquely from one another. His layouts are not necessarily bad and are easy to follow along, but the weak and messy scripting makes reading the comic hard at times. The imagery can be pretty creepy at times and Kelly is more than capable of making unnerving scenes in the comic (hopefully things get creepier as time goes on). Eva De La Cruz’s colors are nice as well, helping to create a decent and moody atmosphere in some of the scenes.
Is It Good?
Survivors’ Club #1 is a thoroughly disappointing first issue. It boasts a pretty good premise and a lot of the story ideas and surprises are ones that can be very intriguing. However, the execution—the sloppy writing and poor storytelling—hurt the experience the comic has to offer. Due to the poor writing and pacing, I cannot recommend this comic at this point. Maybe if it gets better as time goes on I could give this book a yay… but not now. Just skip it and hold out for another Vertigo book.