Fun and light art lifts up an otherwise inscrutable first issue.
Gamma #1, a kind of miniseries reboot/follow-up to Ulises Farinas’ 2013 one shot of the same name, is flashy and endearing, but ultimately an insubstantial failure.
Billed by Dark Horse as a mash-up between Pokemon and Power Rangers and set in a dystopic, alternate history take on the Philippines, the story follows three would-be orphan heroes: Dusty, Sandy, Crash, as they navigate the realities of a world where people catch, buy, trade and sell monsters, and eventually end up on the run from forces much more powerful than them.
It’s a compelling setup, but the execution is lackluster if not downright reader hostile. Jumping between ideas in overwhelming, discordant bursts of dialogue, narration, and maybe even meta-narration, the core story is lost in a miasma of not-so-subtle digs at consumer culture, conservative politics, and the like. The message isn’t bad per se, just hard to parse through all the often funny or poignant but distracting noise, which also ends up interfering with any plotting beats. By the issue’s end, I was re-reading multiple pages to get a sense of what was happening — not a good sign by almost any measure.
Luckily, the art fares slightly better. Best described as a family-friendly Geof Darrow, Farinas has an eye, and real knack, for all-encompassing detail and design. Each and every scene, if not individual panel, is immaculate in its execution — aliens, robots, people, soda cans, garish billboards, machine gun fire and more all bring this world to incredibly detailed life. Melody Often’s colors help wrap a vibrant and varied bow on the entire package, the only boon to a mess of a narrative.
There’s a respectable effort here, one that might pay-off in later issues if readers are interested in sticking it out, but this initial re-introduction to the world of Gamma has soured my appetite for any more attempts with its lack of focus and uneven implementation — a real shame.