Lee returns with a review of Archaia's new imprint Black Label's first graphic Novel, Syndrome!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Created by: Blake Leibel
Written by: Daniel Quantz & R.J. Ryan
Penciled by: David Marquez
Published in association with: Fantasy Prone
When a rogue neuropathologist makes a startling breakthrough—literally isolating the root of all evil in the recesses of the human brain—he'll stop at nothing to advance his theory. With the help of a naïve Hollywood actress, a tormented motion picture production designer and a condemned serial killer, Dr. Wolfe Brunswick launches a bold experiment in the Nevada desert, the outcome of which could transform humanity forever.
"The Truman Show" meets "Se7en" in SYNDROME, an inventive, original graphic novel hardcover that serves as one of the first titles to be featured under Archaia's new Black Label line.
Coming August 2010.
Early on in Syndrome, Alexei Conta, a Hollywood Production Designer, describes his boss as "a Real Life Bond Villain." It is at this point that you realize that the villain of the story is not necessarily who you thought it was.
Mr. Conta has been hired to create a set, a location for acting like none that has ever been made before it. There is a whole world to be made, the idea is radical. Dr. Wolfe Brunswick wants to cure the sociopath. He starts out with a serial killer who is slated for death. The famous "Bible Killer", Thomas Kane. A man who got off on killing young women and religious couples. He wanted to test their faith, it was entertaining to him. He is described and very much is what the world would call a monster.
Yet, he's not the villain. No, that role belongs to the psychiatrist who develops an elaborate treatment that requires the skill of a new and undiscovered talented young actress, and an unbelievably obsessive compulsive production designer that cares not what his art is used for. Through Dr. Brunswick's story, we see empathy for why he goes to the lengths he does. However, the line between medical obsession and outright villainy is obscured beyond recognition. The writers even quote Voltaire, calling the science of medicine "murderous and conjectural."
At what point is the cost of the cure too much? This is a question that the good doctor presents to his investors, but by the end of the book it seems that the great financial cost of the experiment may not even compare to the emotional debt of the process.
It is an interesting study of the way a sociopath can be presented. How they hide behind charisma or science or political import. Sometimes, even the pursuit of something as idealized as art creates the antisocial personality disorder. The writers skillfully convey this through the use of a non-linear narrative that slowly peals the layers of the complex characters back as it painstakingly tells its story.
What's more impressive is the art. It has an elongated quality not unlike the cinematography of seventies auteurs like Bruce Surtees. It is also uncomfortably reminiscent of the art work produced by Valiant in its coloring. It transports you to an unreal place, where all but the young naïve Hollywood beauty are ugly and wrinkled.
But the technical prowess is not the most impressive feat. There is an unreal movie type quality to the opening chapter of the book. It feels forced and synthetic. The scenes jump weirdly and the panels fail to flow, almost like you were looking at a storyboard. As the book proceeds, the art becomes more fluid and natural, more cinematic. It is as intriguing as the psychological horror show being presented to the reader and accentuates the work in a way that art all too often fails comics in the more mainstream cape and tights books.
An exceptional debut from the two writers and the artist, Syndrome is a book told with a unique structure that is worth examining. It also furthers the reputation of Archaia as a publisher that puts out intelligent books that are remarkably unique on the comic shelf.
Review by: Lee Newman