Post-apocalyptic stories can be tricky, like dark comedies or horror Westerns. The concepts sound inherently cool, but the existing stories are often so cliché, the creative teams have to work extra hard to set themselves apart. Unfortunately, despite the impressive talent at work, Oliver is one of the most unironically cliché comics I’ve ever read.
Oliver is supposed to be a loose adaptation of Charles Dickens iconic classic, Oliver Twist. But with nuclear war. And clones. And super-powered children.
Every stupid cliché you can think of is detonated here. Mystery pregnant woman who dies after giving birth to a magic baby? Check. The baby growing up in a fringe group? Check. The leader of the fringe group takes a liking to the child but there’s a grump guy who doesn’t like the kid? Check. Blunt exposition to the child for the audience’s benefit? Check. A scene where one character says to the other: “He can never know the truth about himself”? It just goes on and on and on.
You might think there’s some sense of irony at play. Some kernel of self-awareness to elevate these bloated tropes. You would be incorrect. This series dares you to take it seriously with a slew of over-obvious literary references that would only impress a freshman. Oh, how clever! A character is named Banquo! Get it?
Darick Robertson’s is an exceeding talented artist…but he doesn’t work for this project. He’s gotten a name for drawing vile, grimy stories, which is perfectly fine for the panels showing the post-apocalyptic landscapes. Yet, the tone and plotting suggests a supernatural adventure story with a child protagonist. Other than an umbilical cord being cut, this comic is quite clean. A more versatile, cartoonish artist would be a much better fit. There’s a moment where the main character, Oliver, has a chase through the city. The scene is supposed to be light on its feet and even whimsical, but the grungy art drags it down.