14th Feb2018

‘VS #1’ Review (Image Comics)

by Dan Clark

Written by Ivan Brandon | Art by Esad Ribic | Published by Image Comics


Vs is a good example of how great art and a good premise can only take you so far. Opening up we see these striking images of the vastness of space immediately causing the stage of this story to feel large. As the story progresses it becomes more and more apparent that vastness is missing many key components causing this first issue to feel hollow and wasted.

The story centers on Lieutenant Flynn who leads a squadron in a futurist version of the Gladiator arena. It is like what if all those Call of Duty multiplayer match-ups became real. Similar to the days of the Gladiator these men and women battle to the death for the apparent amusement of others. Victors are treated as celebrities of the highest order. What is unclear though is the true purpose behind all of this and what exactly is at stake.

A first issue not giving you all the answers is not uncommon. You want there to be room for exploration and questions that remain unanswered. What is also needed is a reason to want to go on that exploration and see the answers to those question. With this issue, not much outside of the concept is presented. A lot of these pieces have already been explored in many areas already. The idea of using real-life combat as entertainment has been a staple of dystopian future stories. So far there is no indication this will take those ideas in any new directions.

Character-wise Lieutenant Flynn leaves a lot to be desired as the main protagonist. Similar to the overall narrative his motivations are absent and personality wise there is not much there.He is clearly a skilled warrior with an inhuman level of drive. Where that drive comes from or anything regarding his moral fiber is not even hinted at. So far he is just a classic soldier stereotype and not much more. A strong character can make up for a lacking story. That has not yet happened here.

It is a shame because Esad Ribic’s art is next level as his style fits perfectly with this concept. His character designs look like they were etched in granite so everything has a natural gladiator feel to it. Characters wearing Centurion armor fighting next to blue aliens with future tech could easily look silly. Here due to Ribic’s art and the muted colors a more mature tone is captured.

Structurally there were some issues. It is bookended by this battle sequence with an apparent flash forward taking up the bulk of the issue. The transition from one story to the next was rapid to the point of confusion. In addition, that story choice negatively impacted this issue’s conclusion. By the end, we finally catch up to that flash forward causing a moment of that should be shocking to come off as a piece of the story we accidentally skipped over, like back when movie theaters still used reels and projectionists would accidentally put them in the wrong order.

We now know how Flynn’s story got to its current state, but that current state is lacking any conflict or question that begs to be resolved. By the end of this issue, the one question that I kept asking was why should I care about anything that is going on in this story? No answers came rushing to the service. This feels like an extended prologue stretched out to fill an entire issue. Perhaps the larger story will do more with this concept and give us something worthy of the art that fills the pages. If not it is a major opportunity wasted.

** 2/5


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