It's a bold new look at The Rapture! The End Times of Bram and Ben #1, from Image Comics!
It's good to be a slacker. You get to just sit around all day, playing video games, eating junk food and having sex once in a while. Frankly, it's pretty great when no one has any real expectations for you. When you do stumble across a mission in life, it's going to come from a very unexpected place.
That's where we find the titular duo from The End Times of Bram and Ben #1. Bram is literally mid-gaming when The Rapture happens (the one from the Bible). He gets shunted up into Heaven before dropping right back down onto this mortal coil a few seconds later. From there, Bram initially figures it's just life as normal, but he realizes that the Apocalypse is coming, and he's going to have to get proactive in this new world. Ben, meanwhile, is left wondering why he didn't get Raptured up to Heaven, and figures he's going to have to change his life.
We haven't seen The Rapture depicted much in comics. For a while, Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen's Strange Girl was the one of the definitive statements in comics on the subject. While that series was chock full of demons, magic, and melancholy, End Times #1 is natural comedy in a focused setting. Reading the issue, you probably wouldn't know that The Rapture isn't localized to Ben and Bram's neighborhood. This intense focus ends up bringing the motivations of the characters into full view. Bram was only brought into Heaven due to a clerical error (even in the afterlife, record keeping can be a bitch) and thus was immediately returned. From the first page of the comic, it's easy to see why he isn't let in. Ben, however, is shocked that he's left behind. It makes him think not only about his own life, but about the people around him. He isn't getting into Heaven, but neither are any of his friends or co-workers. The implications of that are far-reaching, and it seems like writers James Asmus and Jim Festante has thought of all of them. If this all sounds like heavy, heady material, it is. But it's wrapped up in comedic presentation. End Times #1 is just a funny, witty comic. It has a quick and effortless rhythm that drives the story forward and is an absolute pleasure to read. The humor is rooted in character and situations, rather than from contrived sitcom-y one-liners. The deep, winding plot and smart comedy make this a really fun comic.
Also a lot of fun is the artwork by Rem Broo and Overdrive Studio. They fit the tone of the story perfectly. Broo has a sketchy, animated style that's lively and warped. Taking a free-form, cartoonish approach, Broo establishes a fun vibe that twists and bends with the story. Take this page, for example:
The buildings don't look so distorted elsewhere in the issue, but because this is a scene of extreme chaos, it fits perfectly. The car crashing into the lamppost is horrific, but still kind of hilarious (it's the flying oversized glasses that really puts it over the top). This is the type of visual interpretation that runs throughout the entire issue. Things are exaggerated yes, but the storytelling is way above par. The characters are wonderfully gestural and expressive, and the pages are perfectly designed. In terms of color, Overdrive utilizes a muted color palette that keeps things grounded in a relatable world, which is important. Despite all the God talk, the events of this comic ostensibly take place in the real world (although there might be zombies in future issues), so it ought to look something like the place where we live.
Other than all the hilarity, what's great about End Times #1 is that it introduces a lot of concepts that spin out from the premise. The writing team has the theology of the world figured out ("Everyone in Heaven was either old or fat – or old and fat," reports Bram. "The only reason they didn't sin is because no one would want to sin with those people."). There is so much introduced here that just feels natural directions for the story to go in. Along with the strong, organic character work, there are a ton of plot elements thrown in that fill out the world in a superbly compelling way. The End Times of Bram and Ben #1 is a fantastic start to a very promising story.
Written or Contributed by Royal Nonesuch
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