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High Level #4 Review

Witness the city of Pleasure Island. Have a nice day!

High Level has been one of the most interesting science fiction comics of the year as it reveals a possible future filled with weirdness. This highly original series took a major turn last issue and it’s up to Thirteen to save the day.

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

Thirteen awakens to find herself in the Sunken Lands, a flood-ravaged realm filthy with the massive bones of genetically engineered super-beasts bred before the Great Disruption. But where’s that child messiah she’s meant to take to High Level? Kidnapped! Now Thirteen must track Minnow through the most dangerous place on Earth: Pleasure Island.

Why does this matter?

Rob Sheridan and Barnaby Bagenda continue to introduce highly imaginative ideas in this gritty future where sea levels have risen and the world is nothing like it once was. This issue reveals not one, but two types of cultures. One is focused on people who speak another language and travel by bought, and the other is a sex city called Pleasure Island.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Credit: DC Vertigo

This issue continues to introduce new characters, ideas, and culture in the world helping to flesh out the surroundings and our idea of this future. Pleasure Island takes up the brunt of the narrative, featuring a culture where anything can be said and done as long as it’s done with permission. Thirteen ends up here in an attempt to find the kidnapped Minnow and rescue her. She comes across various types with a wide variety of kinks and while it’s twisted and sometimes gross, it’s apparent this is about as good as it can get in this future. In a world where you can be murdered in the street, what better place to live than a highly policed, but nearly 100% free culture?

One of the most interesting aspects of this issue is how Sheridan discusses this culture where anything goes. At one point Thirteen poignantly points out “Hateful ideas are the seeds of violence,” which is a good point. Should we allow hate to permeate when it eventually leads to pain and suffering? Other ideas, like showing weakness to those who wish you harm will only egg them on to harm you more, are discussed. You get the sense Sheridan is sharing ideas about culture, how to live, and the like which makes for a contemplative read.

The art by Bagenda, who is joined by Amancay Nahuelpan and colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr., continues to show the inventive ideas with a flourish of color and uniqueness that makes it feel quite special. There is a creature introduced that looks like a melting human being that’s gross, but hard to turn away from. The various kinks are shown in respectful ways and there’s some creative use of architecture to show off Pleasure Island.

Maybe she speaks in swears?
Credit: DC Vertigo

It can’t be perfect, can it?

The first five pages in the Sunken Lands doesn’t seem all that necessary. Seeing another way of life is welcome, but it’s not that interesting. They speak another language and live in a place where skyscrapers are now covered by water. A quicker check in with them would have sufficed.

A major plot element requires Thirteen to get herself caught and seconds away from capital punishment and I’m not sure why. It appears to be a way to introduce the melting creature I mentioned above, but nothing more. It’s not like she gets any resources from putting herself in danger. One could argue Thirteen wanted to lead the authorities to the bad people, but there’s no way she could have known in what circumstance she’d find Minnow and in the scene where the authorities do show up Thirteen seems surprised.  

Is it good?

A series that continues to flesh out its world in vivid and thought-provoking ways.

High Level #4
Is it good?
A series that continues to flesh out its world in vivid and thought-provoking ways.
Even more of this world is uncovered and it's wild, weird, and original
Visuals are vivid and great
Interesting ideas that make you think are introduced
The first few pages in the Sunken Lands kind of drag
Thirteen puts herself in danger seemingly for no reason

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