This review contains minor spoilers.
Ales Kot, accompanied by the fantastic art duo of Tradd and Heather Moore, follow up the confounding, compelling and provoking introductory issue of The New World with a more traditional, contrived, and stunningly beautiful issue that shrugs of the more unique elements of its premise in favor of admittedly solid pacing but also, disappointment.
Image’s description reads:
“On the run, but not the way you might think. Unless… you guessed.”
The unfortunate problem, then, is that readers most likely did guess. Especially so, when the first issue, as well as the series, were pitched as a Romeo and Juliet story as Stella and Kirby head out on the run together. There’s little shock or awe here, favoring instead strong dialogue and fantastic line work brought to life by popping psychedelic colors to carry its relatively safe plot (really safe for readers familiar with Kot’s other, headier, work).
All of the lines doing the plotting work, Kirby’s especially as he’s hilarious, are great, and the panels and pages really clip by allowing you to relish in the character’s wittiness and eye-popping art alike. Nonetheless, it’s undeniably hard to overlook just how much steam this one loses: doing a lot of work that could’ve more easily been done in that same first issue to allow for more compelling characterization now.
We’re still waiting for the payoff of Stella and her parents’ run-in at the border wall which we cut away from in-media-res in the premiere issue, for example, but spend too much time here taking a deep look at the new nation-state’s propaganda machine in the aftermath of Stella’s escape, a machine which was more than sufficiently explained. The love angle, as well as Stella’s issues with the world she lives in and works for, were maybe the easiest but least interesting elements to follow up on from the premise and it’s disappointing to see them get the focus here while we can hold out hope that by the miniseries’ end, everything will come back together more cohesively, combining those sociopolitical, technical, and counter-culture elements that Kot typically hones quite well.
Entirely cohesive here, however, is the combined effort of Tradd and Heather Moore who deliver a fantastical, bright, psychedelic world with stunning assuredness. Characters are expressive, panels are interestingly cropped, lines melt and fold over each other and the pop art brightness is honed akin to monoliths like Lichtenstein or Haring – its hard, if not impossible to pick just one favorite panel if this kind of cel-shaded hyper vibrant world is at all appealing to you.
In the end, it’s a bit of a sophomore slump. The pieces are firing on all cylinders, as Kot’s writing is light and effective, and the Moores offer what I may return to as a favorite artistic endeavor of 2018, but the whole is simply too out of focus for a second issue that follows what was promised in the first.