“Life is the biggest trap you’ll ever get caught in because it’s impossilbe to get out alive.”
— Gillian McBride
I have no idea who Gillian McBride is. I will have to ask Michael Malkin, the writer of this really spooky and engaging comic, “Complex,” published by Alterna Comics. Maybe the name is just a stand-in for an anonymous quote. How fitting for this work since everything in this story is a stand-in for something else! And it fits right in with what we here at Comics Grinder have been pondering over as of late. You know, the whole internet thing and reality vs. virtual reality. You just can’t shake that off now, can you? Gillian McBride. What are perfect avatar, if that is what she really is. Have her help in adding to your list of witty quotes to Twitter about. Alright, back to the subject at hand….
The cover to the first volume of “Complex” grabs your attention and makes you want to see more. It’s a dude screaming holding a crystal ball of a dude screaming ad infinitum. Intriguing, no? I say, yes. Just something about it. And definitely the same reaction, if not more so, to the VW van floating above the suburbs with a big moon in the background. There’s some “Twilight Zone” sort of pitch at the start about things being more complex than they appear and I’m cool with that. By the time we reach that bug in the sky, I am starting to be won over. That’s what the creators of “Complex,” ask for, just a little time to settle in and take off. There is a lot going on….
Meet Zach King. He should be living the dream. He is a young man with a bright future. He just married Helen, an attractive young woman. He has a nice job. Together, they have a nice home. Why can’t he remember any of it? His life is a nightmare but if only he knew how much.
If you liked “Alias” or “Lost,” you’ll enjoy this. Hey, it really has that “Twilight Zone” vibe working for it. Things are not what they seem, right? Zach is a valued employee at Towne Power but he only thinks he is. The whole town of Towne doesn’t really exist. It’s all staged in the service of something far bigger, to big to even be spoken of lightly. As you’ll see from these samples, the art, by “Kay,” has an organic and expressive quality to it. The lettering, also by a one-name artist, “Dekara,” fits in well with the sketchy atmosphere. Vladimir Popov adds to the mix with color for the covers.
The first time you see poor Zach engaged in his true, albeit forced, purpose in life, will definitely hook you. The eerie command of the group’s leader will stick with you: “Turn on the lights, Zachary!”
Alterna Comics have offices in Levittown, New York, which is the classic example of 1950s conformity, the mass-produced houses that Pete Seeger mocked in a 1962 song: “They’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.” (Check out this version of “Little Boxes” here) Looking alike being the key problem. No African-Americans were welcome back then. Happy communities are not massed-produced and, even at best, take work. It’s an apt subtext to this clever comic.
“Complex Volume One: Ways of Life,” is a 160-page, b&w, trade paperback, $11.99, collecting the first arc of the digital smash hit.
Vist our friends at Alterna Comics here.