Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Toni Fejzula
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 5th, 2014
It’s an odd thing anymore, to be surprised by a comic book. It’s even stranger when the surprise comes well after (ok, maybe a half an hour) one has finished reading said comic, but that is exactly what happened after I finished Greg Rucka (Queen & Country, Punisher, Gotham Central) and Toni Fejzula’s (Cthulhu) new Dark Horse comic, Veil.
At first glance, Veil isn’t all that impressive. Story wise, it starts off as many other science fiction stories have with a naked amnesiac – Veil - waking up underground with no idea who or what she is. Following Veil as she finds her way to the surface we have the expected gawking at the naked chick, attempts to take advantage of the obviously confused naked chick, and the ever popular white knight that saves the naked chick from a band of ruffians.
Even with these well-known tropes, Veil managed to keep my attention largely due to Rucka’s ability to create drama and mystery with every word he writes, no matter how mundane, but also due to the artistic style of Toni Fejzula. As the story moved forward and I became more and more comfortable with Fejzula’s artistic style I became aware of why she was chosen as the artist on this book. Fejzula’s art is weird and somewhat off-putting, in other words it complements Rucka’s script almost perfectly, and serves to add a level of mystery to a story structure that (seems) routine.
But there is something else that is striking about Toni Fejzula’s portrayal of Veil and that is the lack of sexuality about her. This might not make any sense, and this is what it took me a while to realize even after I finished the book, but this is a comic book where the main character is naked for the first twelve pages and at no point is she drawn in such a way that her nakedness is used to “excite” the reader. In the story, many of the characters in the book react to this naked woman as a sexual object, but as a reader, Fejzula does not inspire that kind of reaction. Any more, when even Disney princesses and My Little Ponies are redesigned in such a way that there are actual conversations about whether or not they were sexualized it is refreshing to see an attractive female protagonist who is not posed for maximum T&A on every panel. Take into account that the character is naked at the time, the subtlety of Fejzula’s art becomes even more evident.
As the story moves forward and the reader learns more about Veil – she likes to rhyme and tends to repeat the last phrase anyone has said to her – it becomes more and more apparent that she is not normal (think River from Firefly) and by book’s end, the reader is given a brief look at what Veil can do. Again, it is all rather predictable, but Rucka and Fejzula work so well on building up the suspense and mystery that the reader has no choice but to go along for the ride. Veil #1 ended with a rare common sense move by a supporting character and left me tense and curious about what happens next.
And, if that’s not what a first issue is supposed to do, I don’t know what is.
So far, 2014 has seen a slew of creator owned work coming out of some great publishers, and readers would do well to make sure Veil doesn't get lost in the shuffle.