Royal Nonesuch reviews MURDERLAND #1, published by Image Comics!
Credits & Solicit Info:
story STEPHEN SCOTT
art & cover DAVID HAHN & GUILLEM MARI
flip cover BOO COOK
32 PAGES / FC
"SET THE METHOD DOWN," Part One
Artist DAVID HAHN joins newcomer STEPHEN SCOTT to tell a story of doomed romance, bloodshed and the outer limits of human potential, all unfolding on the "complicated" streets of Baltimore, Maryland. The Arabber is a reformed killer bent on bringing peace to his hometown. Method is his lover and partner in crime, but she may not be long for The Arabber's crusade. The first of many genre-bending stories in the MURDERLAND universe.
RETAILER WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES
There's something to be said for simply throwing a reader directly into a story and allowing them to find their own way through it. Sometimes a lack of establishment and explanation makes a project's unpredictability it's most engaging aspect.
Other times, as in the case of MURDERLAND #1, the technique simply does not work as well. The issue starts off with a belabored introduction that describes the main character's murderous actions in the parlance of acting. From there, it constantly introduces new elements into the story without giving it any time to breathe. This is simply the life of these characters, and we the readers are merely spectators. MURDERLAND #1 does a good job of establishing that much, but there is such a thing as too much too fast. In a good faith effort to surprise readers, all these elements just come across as more "stuff" by the time the superpowers show up.
There is some measure of formalist ambition, though, and that's always welcome. Writer Stephen Scott plays with time and scene transitions a bit with the use of narration caption boxes. It's the type of thing that might get lost in all the other chaos, but hopefully it all gets refined in future issues.
David Hahn has a track record for solid work, and his storytelling in this issue is excellent. His pacing and composition work very well and the page layouts are great. He's been pushing his figure drawing style, apparently, but with mixed results. Although the sense of anatomy is strong, his characters' stiff gestures really make them resemble posed plastic dolls, and Guillem Mari's bright, flat colors only contribute to the artificial look.
It makes sense for a new writer to want to come out of the gates swinging but despite its ambition, MURDERLAND #1 is too unfocused to be a success. For it's formal strengths, this issue is too messy that it feels like a wasted opportunity more than anything else.