Hollywood. Astronomy. Lovecraft. All this and more, from Image Comics.
Let's just get this out of the way first: you're not expecting this comic.
2012 was a banner year for Image, one which saw the publisher put out a litany of highly ambitious, singular visions that were executed beautifully by great creators and which made a lot of noise in the comics market. It almost stands to reason that Image would toss a bizarre and unique work like Change #1 out there right at the end of the year, almost like they're screaming a final "Boo! Gotcha!" right before walking out the door. They've been hitting us over the head with some many excellent comics all year, and now they just wanted to take one last shot at readers before going home and resting for the holidays.
Writer Ales Kot, was obviously onto something when his graphic novella Wild Children was published earlier this year. That book showed a lot of promise, and a tendency to really push the idea of narrative. Change #1 takes things even further. Change #1 takes place in a world a lot like our own, only completely different. It's an extremely colorful setting that's rendered in exaggerated perspective and a wild, energetic sense of reckless abandon. Look no further than the dayglo pulpiness of this juicy grapefruit getting sliced.
This close-up panel of the knife slicing into the fruit has to be one of the most exciting events to occur anywhere in comics in several months. The blade rending the flesh, the juice spattering all over the place (including dripping down the sides of the rind and splashing onto the thumb)...it's all just so alive. The linework and color combine to create a palpable sense of texture and in-your-face intensity. Though the balloon placement is a bit obtrusive, that ends up adding to the sensory overload that's already happening in the panel. All this for breakfast.
That panel is a microcosm of the narrative itself. It's a constant flow of information bombarding the reader's eyes at such a clip that it doesn't allow you to catch up. There's so much going on that you're not at all sure of what's going on at any given moment. The story concerns W-2, a rapper-turned-movie producer who just wants to see his dreams of a Lovecraftian vanity project come to fruition, the failing screenwriter he fires for not giving him a script he wants (and who's unwittingly caught up in some weird conspiracy that nearly gets her killed), and some astronaut hurtling gently towards Earth (the astronaut is returning home from Europa; the fact that a manned spacecraft has made it that far out doesn't seem to be all that interesting to anyone on the ground). Following their lives becomes a kinetic exercise, and that's before the Cthulhu cultists show up. Even the quietest moments of this comic are full of eye candy. The best part of the comic visually is the way Morgan Jeske opens up the panel layouts when the story needs to breathe, only to design a page that brings together a ton of panels, many of them containing nothing but a set of scratchy lines, to ratchet up the tension in an action moment. He and Sloane Leong together possess a sort of Frank Quitely-meets-graffitti-art aesthetic that bring out beautiful texture and detail to the world of the comic.
Kot, for his part, puts together a world full of nonsequitors and such screwy dialogue as "somedays I feel like all this is some sort of an apocalyptic foreplay. And there's no way I can play this game on Wednesday." He has some big ideas about Los Angeles being in danger, and humanity getting stuck in some cycle of death and rebirth, but he chooses the most idiosyncratic delivery system for these concepts he can find, which only make the comic more exciting.
That's really the crux of what we're dealing with here: a completely strange and constantly surprising comic. Change #1 is beautiful and weird, and it's the reason we have comics. You're not going to know what it is you just read, but you'll know that you're going to want more of it.
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