It’s very likely the that just the title, “Intent vs. Execution” inspires a reaction of “Uh oh.” The points at the problem may not look too promising either, and there’s a reason for that. Sometimes, it just doesn’t come together all that well. If you don’t want to sit through the why, I can’t blame you. But it should be explained, and it should be examined. Just as we need to praise and look deep into why the good comics work so well, we also need to look at what went wrong with those that missed the mark a bit.
Here we are, Pandemica #1, the first issue. This is what sets the tone, lays the groundwork, and brings readers into the story. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Some books leave one disappointed or confused, and unfortunately, that’s sort of what happens here. Pandemica is a book that goes too far in it’d horror elements, exaggerated characters, and over-the-top narrative while not going far enough in how it examines the more serious issues of racial identity and persecution.
Pandemica #1 is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand you have this premise:
Pandemica is a near-future thriller that, according to Maberry, “reflects a lot of fears about the direction in which our country and the world is going. It deals with a diverse group of people who discover that a secret organization is selling designer pathogens for use in ethnic cleansing. My story is about the kinds of people who take a stand against this, who find the courage to fight back, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent.”
The bare bones of what’s above are there. You can see it within the pages, but not quite the way you likely imagined. It’s less subtle and less poignant than you may think. The people that take a stand aren’t necessarily the heroes or upstanding citizens you may be looking for. Instead, you’re presented with all of this negativity, injustice, corruption, and oppression along with the strike force to counter it. You see the team formation in the final moments and are just left saying, “Oh…”
We open with some shady individuals planting bio-weapons all over the world. Quick, in-and-out operations done by skilled spies or spec ops members. There’s very little dialogue until we begin to see the effects of these weapons a bit later. People are dying. A lot of people. But it doesn’t seem to be random, rather… selective. Some are horrified, but others seem very pleased. “Absolutely f-----g perfect,” but who is they? We don’t really know, but presumably people with power. These diseases are patterned, specific, targeted toward people of color. These mysterious individuals smile and cheer as most seem dumbfounded and horrified… or at least that’s what you’d expect.
Instead, when a news anchor and a medical professional are discussing the atrocities occurring around the world, they’re both smiling. As they recount thousands of people dying and the terrifying disparities with regard to who exactly is dying, they both have huge grins on their faces. They are also quite literally sitting between two ferns. The entire thing looks like a joke or parody, but it’s hard to discern the purpose. Perhaps it’s because the creative team is trying to drive home the idea that we sit and talk about horrifying things going on in the world every day without actually ever doing anything about it. Maybe that’s the joke, but the tone just doesn’t hit home all that well. Throughout the issue, everyone is smiling when they shouldn’t be. If the final message of the series is that we’re all the culprits here, then bravo, I truly didn’t see that coming. Outside of that, however, there does not seem to be a reason the characters should look so neutral or happy when they’re being attacked by the government.
This ethnic cleansing that’s being committed all over the world throughout the issue is absolutely awful, but there’s so little focus on that part other than pointing out what it is. There’s really no thorough examination as to what this really means, why it’s horrifying, or what some of these marginalized identities are truly looking like or going through right now. We see the terrible actions and the worse ramifications but we don’t really see the fear, raw truth, or really any aspect of what’s going on other than the rampant death in these places. It lessens the horror elements a lot. Right now, this book is being written from a lens of power, while claiming to be from a lens of race. It doesn’t feel like the care is taken to really dig into perspectives of marginalized identities during a crisis like this. Most of what we see comes from white people in power or the people trying to fix it. The U.N. taskforce we see near the end is a really interesting element that I’m excited to be flushed out, but it’s the exception rather than the norm. We don’t see the oppressed, we see the oppressors, and putting the spotlight on the villain all the time doesn’t really do anyone any good.