What if I told you … that The Normals #1 is not The Matrix? Obvious similarities aside, is it good?
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Dennis Calero
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
You know that Talking Heads song that asks, “How did I get here?” Jack does, as he reminds the reader in several different ways. Jack doesn’t know how he ended up with such a perfect family, but he’s about to find out it wasn’t any of his doing.
It starts innocently enough, with his son falling out of a tree. That’s where the horror begins, but not in the way you first think. Noticing something strange on the back of the kid’s head makes Jack pick up and skip back home, where the truth comes out — and he is DEFINITELY not Neo.
The Normals #1 is legitimately creepy and builds tension capably throughout the issue. You get a real feel for Jack and his wife — and the kids, too, to a lesser degree — and you experience the same emotional moments he endures through the course of the book.
Which makes so much of the redundant exposition so unnecessary. Telling us about the Talking Heads song is pointless when it’s also playing on Jack’s radio as he drives home. Ditto for explaining he comes from a “throwback town, full of good, hardworking people,” when he already makes that clear when describing his remembered childhood. It’s almost like writer Adam Glass felt the need to put Cliffs Notes into his own story.
Artist Dennis Calero draws standard-looking figures that somehow have a hint of “otherness” about them, perfect for The Normals. The sequence of Jack’s son falling is seen in the reflection of Jack’s eye, a great device that puts the emphasis on what he’s thinking, which is more important to the story than the fall itself. Colorist Adriano Augusto defines the story’s tone with Rockwell-reminiscent hues, made sinister by Calero’s heavy inks.
The Normals #1 is a fine opening for a psychological thriller, with a little too much redundant exposition. Glass needs to trust that his audience can pick up what he’s laying down without being spoon fed backstory. Calero and Augustino finely craft the book’s tone with their “shadows over the Heartland” style that further suggests something has tainted the idyllic. You’ll want more of the story after reading this issue, but less of the double-speak that can pull you out of the mood.