A deep examination of its protagonist in a detailed, world-building issue.
Few comics in recent memory have come out of the gate as strongly as Robert Kirkman’s Oblivion Song. The prolific Image creator’s newest series launched with a flawless issue that managed to pack action, characterization, and intricate world building into a 35 page story. The second issue takes a much slower approach, trading the action for a deep character dive merely inching the overall plot along while giving readers a closer look at the life of Nathan Cole and the world he inhabits.
Solicitations and previews of Oblivion Song #2 promised an issue focusing on protagonist Nathan Cole’s obsession with Oblivion, and in that regard it certainly delivers. The vast majority of this issue takes place in the grimy Washington, D.C. setting as Nathan visits with survivors and old friends as he explains the terrifying reality the experience.
In these exchanges, Kirkman illuminates how Nathan’s infatuation with Oblivion and its inhabitants completely eradicates his relationship with the real world. However, one page in particular hints that Nathan’s commitment to saving the survivors of the Transference may be as ego driven as it is well intentioned.
While visiting a memorial for those lost, he fixates on the photo of a cop fighting back monsters at Ground Zero of the Transference. The cop has been enshrined forever as a true hero of the tragedy, receiving an entire wing of the memorial dedicated to him and even his own movie. The way Nathan admires and relishes in the story of Officer Clark Daniels could just mean he really appreciates the sacrifice, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that there was some envy driving Cole in this scene — this notion that he was partly driven by the allure of public acclaim.
We see Nathan reach out to his girlfriend to help secure additional funding for his Oblivion trips, but she comes off more frustrated than empathetic about Nathan’s unending attempts to return to Oblivion time and time again. Similarly, Nathan’s visit to an old field partner results in a scornful shooing away of the wannabe hero.
These moments add serious depth to Nathan, defining him as a man trying to be a hero in a world in which no one cares about his fight any longer. He’s not just struggling to get survivors home safely, he’s struggling to find any sort of support, emotionally or financially.
I was a little disappointed to see so little time devoted to exploring Nathan’s scientist Duncan. His moments in the previous issue were wrought with emotionally driven dialogue and I was hoping to see more in #2. All characterization is directed exclusively to Nathan in this issue, who does become an even more interesting protagonist. However, I would’ve liked to see more time spent developing the supplemental characters as well. That being said, it’s almost guaranteed readers will learn more about them in coming issues, so patience is key.
Aside from character development, this issue moves the plot forward a very minuscule amount. After a first issue that moved at a blistering pace diving deep into the world of Oblivion Song, it’s both jarring and disappointing how this second issue slows things down considerably — even if the character development of Nathan is well executed.
One interesting thread that begins to manifest in this issue is the notion that the survivors of Oblivion no longer want to be saved, something that promises to play out in dramatic fashion when Nathan returns to Oblivion. Aside from that, there’s little revealed about Oblivion that readers couldn’t already assume from the first issue and there are only two short glimpses of Oblivion here anyway.
A fair amount of world building takes place within these pages, further exploring the grim nature of the series’s context. A walk through a memorial museum elicits a sense of unending grief over a decade- old event while a life-sized, stuffed monster gives a sense of scale to just how terrifying the monsters of Oblivion are.
Though the narrative in these pages may be lacking, the art from Lorenzo De Felici is once again top notch. He has such a talent for conveying emotions through facial expressions; readers will know exactly how a character is feeling simply by examining their face. In the few short pages that do take place in Oblivion, the panels continue to be grotesquely breathtaking in the sheer size and detail of the monstrosities that have overtaken Philadelphia.
This second part of Oblivion Song feels like the exposition-heavy narratives found in most first issues. It’s not a bad issue at all — it simply suffers from being so much slower than the incredible story that preceded it. It’s an enlightening yet plodding issue that gives readers a deeper understanding of the complexities of the protagonist while nudging the overall plot along ever-so-slightly.