The first issue of Cover caught me by surprise, delivering a different kind of comic book experience that was not only original but meta. It’s a logical story that seems like it could happen, too focused on a comic book creator who is without his consent coerced to help a spy group with an international mission. With how this issue opens, however, it doesn’t look so good for our comic creator.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Nazi-hunters? Escape artists? Some M.I.A. for decades? Exactly how long have comics creators been part of the intelligence community? Follow the latest recruit from the Comic-Con circuit as he falls in with this mysterious crowd. The secrets he uncovers about its legacy will shock and delight, well, just about everyone.
Why does this matter?
One of the now many new Jinxworld series from creator Brian Michael Bendis, this issue is the re-teaming of Bendis and David Mack, two of the most influential creators in the industry over the last 20 years. Need I say more?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
One of the most intriguing aspects of this series is how it layers its story. We see what happened then, now, and in the story of creator Max Field. This layering allows us to gain an understanding of what happened while also revealing the artist through his work. There’s a story here about finding oneself and also finding meaning while living in the moment. Opening with Max getting interrogated, we’re instantly aware things did not go so well in Istanbul where Max went on an all-expense paid convention trip. As the story progresses, you see the rollercoaster of choices before Max, and can relate to how he decides on what to do next. Getting down to the choices being made and the fear, doubt, and confusion that comes with it is what makes this story so entertaining. There’s also a deeply meaningful point made about why the world is the way it is, which should get people thinking.
The book is without a doubt visually arresting. There are a lot of techniques going on, most of which are rendered in dream-like watercolors. Customary of Bendis-written comics, there are scenes that require repetitive recurring panels to show the passage of time and draw your attention to what is being said. The subtle changes in each panel help articulate the character acting going on within. The dramatic narrative is made conceptual at times, further making the book read like a psychological drama.
Mack, backed up with digital coloring by Zu Orzu — who drew part of the first issue — and letters by Carlos M. Mangual, is capable of drawing out intense emotion and human experience through his imagery. In one sequence, for instance, he casts Max in a black silhouette as if to convey he’s in the dark. As the scene continues we get them both cast in a kind of silhouette, only it’s the absence of color–and instead the paper of the page–that reveals the characters. This change helps convey the collaboration and connection they make via the dialogue. As the scene progresses you see the surroundings outside their silhouettes change color and become brighter, as if they’re hopeful. This then bleeds into a streaky purple single full-page image broken up by panels, each with dialogue. I’d love to learn more about Mack’s process with Bendis since the visuals tell a story that you’d think is almost impossible to plan for.
It can’t be perfect can it?
At its core this is a book about a man making choices when thrust into a confusing situation. You get the sense of this confusion by the visuals and the introspective nature of the drama. Max makes a choice in this issue that seems somewhat shortsighted of his desire to get out of this situation. I don’t want to spoil it here, but it’s safe to say he conveniently doesn’t overthink an ask of him which leads to directly helping with spy stuff. One can make conclusions as to why he’s going along with any of this, but it seems strange he doesn’t question it, confirmed later when he’s shocked to find out what he helped pull off.
Is it good?
I’m a sucker for psychological dramas, so this is the perfect story for someone like me. Bendis and Mack are laying out a story that is captivating and meaningful in ways that make you immediately invested.