Some things in life are guaranteed: Death, taxes, student loan debt, Marvel guaranteeing they won’t do an annual event, Marvel doing an annual event, and Robert Kirkman making excellent comics. Fans of the prolific Image partner who are saddened by Invincible‘s end have to put Oblivion Song #1 on their pull lists. Debut issues simply don’t get better than this.
This series is less like Invincible and more in the realm of The Walking Dead, but Oblivion Song is in its own league among Kirkman’s portfolio. It’s best described as an alchemy of The Leftovers, Cloverfield, and Saving Private Ryan, but even that fails at adequately appraising it. Here’s a quick explanation, for context: A massive portion of Philadelphia has vanished into another dimension rife with terrifying monsters and nobody knows how it happened or what happened to everyone stranded there. While the rest of the world has given up on the mystery of it all, Nathan Cole continues traveling to that area, known as Oblivion, to search for answers and survivors despite a lack of government funding or public approval.
So many new series stumble out the gate because they spend too much time building the world and not enough time existing within it. Not only are the worlds of Oblivion Song incredible to look at, thanks to stellar art from Italian newcomer Lorenzo de Felici, but they’re teeming with life — both human and otherwise. Kirkman and de Felici waste no time, immediately thrusting readers into the world of Oblivion with a heart-pounding search and rescue gone wrong in the opening pages.
There’s almost no dialogue here, but de Felici’s animated, detailed panels perfectly encapsulate the feelings of despair and terror from the characters while letters from Russ Wooton provide audio cues to each pulse-pounding page. Oblivion Song #1 is also surprisingly action-oriented despite being a debut issue.
Once the book slows down a bit, Kirkman shifts focus to his cast of characters, who each have their own motivations for their continued visits to Oblivion. Every character is given due diligence, establishing story threads to be explored in future issues and each thread feels worth tugging on. Although these are all characters readers are meeting for the first time, each feels completely alive and fleshed out with subtle hints at what makes them tick in a world that is somewhat broken.
Even when the plot shifts from the grotesque beauty of Oblivion to the stark brightness of the real world, de Felici’s landscapes are a sight to behold. Environments are richly detailed with a sense of depth that makes every scene feel alive. The character models are well executed too, with a consistency in features regardless of whether the character is at the forefront of the image or rummaging in the background.
What surprises me the most about this book is the amount of emotional punch it packs. By the time I finished reading the 35 pages, I felt a genuine connection to the characters and empathized with the hardships the world had thrust upon them. Nathan’s persistence in bringing everyone home felt gut-wrenching, particularly in the way he keeps track of those he saves. I felt worried and sad for Duncan, a scientist on Nathan’s team, who is clearly suffering from PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome simultaneously. These moments aren’t served to the reader on a silver platter, either — they’re presented by a mixture of dialogue, art, and colors that create a collection of narrative moments.
Oblivion Song #1 is a flawless debut that delivers standout action sequences and rich characters while building the world of an emotionally gripping, character driven narrative. Kirkman undoubtedly has another masterpiece on his hands, and I cannot wait to see where he and de Felici take this book. Stop what you’re doing and go pre-order this book right now.