Originally published in France back in 2007, Factory #1 is billed on Titan Comics’ website as “Mad Max meets Fallout in the nightmarish vision of life on a dystopian planet,” which is mostly true. I’d say it’s a bat-s--t bonkers story with elements from Mad Max, Fallout, and Alice in Wonderland. There’s no way around it- Factory #1 is a WEIRD book, both for better and worse.
Factory is written and drawn by French animator and comic writer Yacine “Elgo” Elghorri. While his comics are rarely seen in the United States, his animation can be found in Futarama and one of my all time favorite childhood movies, Titan A.E. Readers won’t make the connection to his previous works based on the artwork here though – it’s just so damn outlandishly peculiar.
There are floating, mechanized severed heads patrolling steel hallways alongside obese yet ghastly clerics while they observe fetal precognitive beings. Wow. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. There’s not a single panel that’s “pretty,” but that’s the point – it’s a grotesque, decaying world and the art reinforces that on every single panel. While this may be a major turn off to some readers, the art cements the reader in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Factory with mesmerizing visuals.The story immediately thrusts readers into the harsh and unsettling reality of Factory on the very first panel, as a prenatal precognitive mutant foresees danger coming from an incoming “Man-Pig.” Sound weird? It is, but the scenes are brought to such vivid life thanks to the gruesomely detailed art and articulate audio cues from Elgo that it feels more surreal than weird.
The perspective jumps back and forth from the fortified walls of the titular Factory and the barren wasteland being traveled by the aforementioned Man-Pig, each detailing different but equally disturbing aspects of life within this world. Out in the wild, the trees eat you alive and mysterious creatures lure travelers into poison laden traps. Man-Pig and his crew run into a talking monkey who seems stripped straight from a Lewis Carroll novel. He’s eccentric and comical, but undeniably untrustworthy. He actually ended up being the only enjoyable character thus far.Within the confines of the Factory and its outlying settlement, there’s a binary, class-based society that feels on the verge of collapse. The common people are starving while those who walk the interior of the Factory live gluttonously, manipulating precognitive visions to keep the people loyal while they live as lavishly as they can. Every member of the ruling class speaks with arrogance and are drawn as hideously overweight clergymen whereas the common folk are gangly looking souls on the verge of starvation. The foreshadowed danger brought on by the Man-Pig and the arrival of a mysterious “Federal Food Corps” inspector threaten to completely disrupt the already fragile ecosystem. There’s a sense of impending catastrophe throughout this issue that never relents.
All these moving parts and characters are shrouded in complete mystery. There is absolutely no backstory provided for anybody introduced in this story, nor any of the locales. I am completely intrigued by the overall strangeness of the story, but right now my interest doesn’t extend much farther due to the complete lack of context.
I am usually one to quickly complain about inaugural issues being weighed down by exposition, but the opposite is true with Factory #1. There’s so little exposition that, despite an intriguing world brought to grotesque life, the story is more confusing than compelling. It almost feels like it is another issue in an ongoing series rather than something new. It doesn’t help that the story jumps perspectives so suddenly so often. I found myself unaware of who was talking or what the hell was going on multiple times.
That brings me to another problem I had with this issue, a rare one at that – speech bubble placements. This is a weird complaint for a weird book, but on multiple occasions the speech bubbles failed to actually assign the speech to a character in the panels. There are several occurrences where dialogue is completely unassigned, neither narration nor dialogue, simply words floating on the page in white, tan, or black bubbles. Sometimes it’s obvious the words are being spoken by crowd members, but more often than not there’s simply no telling who is saying what. It doesn’t necessarily harm the story, but it definitely hurt the reading experience.
Factory #1 is by far the weirdest book I’ve read in 2018, and may be weirder than anything I read in 2017. At certain points, I reveled in the weirdness, intrigued by what could possibly come next. However, I spent an equal amount of time confused within the context of the story, as if I was missing something. Regardless, I’ll be picking up the next issue to see if there is any meaning to the madness – at the very least, I’ll be treated to some uncomfortably mesmerizing visuals.