Royal Nonesuch takes an advance look at the first issue of Boom! Studios new revenge thriller NOLA!
NOTE: WILL BE IN STORES 11/18/09
Written by Chris Gorak, Pierluigi Cothran
Drawn by Damian Couceiro
SC, 24 pgs, FC, (1 of 4), SRP: .99
COVER A: Erik Jones
COVER B: Chris Brunner
Diamond Code: SEP090694
After cheating death, Nola Thomas wakes up alone in a deserted New Orleans hospital. Bruised, broken, and badly burned, she emerges from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina with one thing on her mind…revenge. From Chris Gorak, the writer/director of the critically-acclaimed film, Right at Your Door!
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina touching down on the Gulf Coast five years ago has gotten a lot of consideration in television and other media, but it hasn't been dealt with all that much in comics. Boom! Studios' much-hyped new limited series NOLA is looking to bring the flood-ravaged New Orleans of five years ago back to the forefront of pop culture consciousness by using it as the setting for a new revenge thriller. First, it needs to introduce readers to its protagonist, Nola (the name is a bit on-the-nose, considering where the story takes place, but that is easy to get past). Like many first issues, this one is largely set-up for the events to take place in subsequent issues, but it does give plenty of insight into the title character.
The most effective method used to bring life to Nola and her life isn't the Claremontian use of exaggerated regional dialect, but the clever cinematic "cross-cutting" between two time periods: just before Katrina hits, and just afterward (the latter ostensibly being the "present" of the story). Creator Chris Gorak comes to comics from film (the writer/director of 2006's Right At Your Door, as well as the Art Director on such visually dynamic films as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fight Club), and he appears to have brought his sense of mise-en-scene to his creative oversight of this book. The shunting back and forth between the two Nolas is well executed, as it works to bring a lot of information about both plot and character in a small amount of space. Nola is a wealthy, privileged young woman trying to hide a wild side before the storm; after the storm, that wild side becomes more overt as she is seen trying to violently break into a closed off New Orleans while dressed as a ninja. The cross-cutting structure also serves to add dramatic tension leading into the cliffhanger ending of the issue.
The artwork is rather serviceable here. The shame is that it doesn't take advantage of the unique setting provided by the story. New Orleans is dynamic setting for a comic book, but there's very little here to distinguish it from small town America. On the other hand, the focus here is on the characters, and in that way it succeeds. The greatest strength of the artwork is the subtle but effective body language. A lot of meaning is packed into smaller gestures. The panel work is not terribly exciting, but it just gets the job done here.
A note about the solicitation: it mentions Nola waking up in the hospital, but we don't actually see that in this issue (though we do see what leads up to it). Aside from that quibble, the most interesting aspect about Nola #1 is its narrative structure. This issue may feel like empty calories upon first reading, but the storytelling techniques used here do enhance the story upon further reading.
7.5 of 10