Comic books have grown up a lot in the last 10 years. It used to be series had to follow a formula or at the very least not go too far outside the box. Good guy solves a crime + throws criminal in jail = the end. Now, comics are telling stories in ways that break the three act structure, force the reader to catch up and ultimately tell new and interesting stories. If it’s because people are bored with the old or if they’ve grown up themselves is a question for another time but it continues to be true. Image Comics has been delivering some very different kinds of stories for a while now, and after cracking open Pisces it was clear this is a very different story, but is it good?
Pisces #1 (Image Comics)
This comic very much is outside the usual read and you don’t have to read past the first page to see as much. The story opens on a man who’s been drinking and is off to the hospital to, presumably, see his wife give birth. I say presumably because there’s no internal narration, nor explicit details from the characters around him. A man catches him at the door and tells him, “it should have been you in there” and “you should have been in there with her.” See, it’s challenging, and never wants to give you the story up front. Many stories like this are invigorating because they force the reader to be a detective; it’s fun to figure things out. Sometimes.
The first panel and he’s already unlikable!
This series not so much, at least not after its first issue. Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe intertwines the now with outer space and a flashback to our protagonist in the war. It’s a lot to take in all at once and at times feels like a chore. Wiebe’s previous series Green Wake was a favorite of mine and was almost as difficult to penetrate, but in that case the story had a lot of weird and mystical elements to keep us interested. Here we have soldiers trying to survive after their chopper goes down and the aforementioned confusing space scenes. A major issue with this…issue…is that Wiebe has us trek through a jungle, seeing our characters’ pasts for 14 solid pages. There are no clues as to why we’re seeing what we’re seeing, nor a heck of a lot of character development.
It appears we need to see him go through some sort of hell to feel bad for him (maybe to make up for the drunk driving to open the series?) before we can carry on with the science fiction elements. When the science fiction finally takes forefront in the story there is really nothing to chew on. The character is floating in space….because? We don’t know the character enough, nor what is going on, to really care.
If there is anything symbolically happening we’re not given enough to reason it out which makes this read frustrating. That’s not to say there isn’t a whopper of a series here, because chances are there is, but this issue doesn’t give the reader enough to care. Of course everything you see on the page could be really happening and maybe our protagonist is time travelling, but with the dreamlike art used I can’t help but think it’s all in his head.
The art by Johnnie Christmas is good and keeps things levelheaded and understandable. Considering how slim the science fiction is thrown in it’s not surprising, but the flashback in the jungle is improved by Christmas’ lines. Near the middle of the book Christmas plays around with a 9 panel structure that paces the story well and enhances the danger of the moment.
Cool shot of the blood coming at us.
Is It Good?
The art is solid and the concept could be strong, but this first issue does not deliver enough for the reader to know what is happening or care. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the second issue blows my socks off since the payoff is clearly not here.