By: Simon Oliver (story), Robbi Rodriguez (art), Rico Renzi (colors)

The Story: There are worse things to get detention for than playing hooky without gravity.

The Review: It’s a good time to be a Vertigo loyalist nowadays.  I remember when the legendary Karen Berger stepped down, quite a few people started prophesying the imprint’s end (some doing so on this very site).  With multiple series canned or finished around the same time, and Image rising up to usurp the position of premiere publisher of creator-owned comics, Vertigo’s fate did seem dire indeed.

So while their “Defy” campaign may be boastful and cocky, it’s absolutely accurate, given the dubious expectations of even their fans.  Of all the titles slated to be part of their burgeoning renaissance, none embodies Vertigo’s nothing-to-lose attitude better than Collider, a story where even the very rules which make the world function are disregarded.  As the first truly new and original title released by a relatively unknown writer in many, many months, Collider will be the series by which Vertigo’s comeback is measured.

This is an unfair, unnecessary burden for Oliver’s debut issue, which confidently but modestly establishes the premise, tone, and stakes for the story at large.  Oliver exercises plenty of control over the pace and tone, giving us exactly what we need to have a firm grasp on the rules (or lack thereof) of this world and its protagonists, but there’s nothing particularly outstanding about the issue.  Unlike Saga #1, you won’t find any moments that perfectly encapsulate the series’ appeal.

What you find instead is a thoughtful, fascinating piece of science-fiction, displaying humanity’s remarkable adaptability and incessant need for bureaucracy, even in the face of impossible phenomena.  At the point we enter the story, physics-related troubles have already become common enough to warrant the creation of an entire government agency to investigate and resolve them.  Seeing the methods and equipment used by the Federal Bureau of Physics to deal with one such trouble is interesting enough, but their blasé demeanor as they work is what makes the story entertaining. “Well, so far, the drive to work is still probably the highlight of my day,” says one agent sarcastically, after narrowly escaping a crushing gravitational vortex.

Oliver gives us some clues that not all of this physical strangeness is a natural (in the loose sense of the word) development.  This latest disaster comes with “no warning signs,” suggesting that some intelligent design may be at work here.  Whether this is related to a certain older gent,* who coerces another F.B.P. agent into keeping mum on his suspicions about the gent’s involvement in the incident, we don’t know.  But it’s clear someone stands to benefit from the laws of physics recent tendency to cut short.

Fantastic premises are inert without strong characters to populate them and keep them tethered to ground, instead of spinning away on their own ethereal ideas.  Oliver has a good sense of voice, making it easy to fall into the comfortable rhythm of the characters’ interactions, whether it be the playboy Adam, the bookish and socially awkward Cicero (“Jesus, Cicero, you ever been checked for Asperger’s?”), and the reliable veteran Jay.  You don’t vest much attachment to them yet, but you feel secure in their ability to navigate you through Collider’s plot.

Rodriguez has a slim, pliable line that seems capable of bending to even the slightest change in environment, which is perfect for showing the disorienting effects of a localized gravity deficiency.  Instead of Adam looking like he’s just suspended in air, you can see from his splayed arms and rippling tether line that he’s struggling against intangible forces beyond his control.  Intangible, but not unseen, thanks to Renzi’s standout colors.  These hues have nothing to do with scientific sobriety; this is techno-punk we’re dealing with here.  The more space and time distorts, the sharper, more striking Renzi’s magentas, teals, and purples become, rippling and whirling in ecstatic, crazy ways, like space and time has entered a rave.

Conclusion: For a story where gravity will occasionally and sullenly cease its predictable work, Collider is delightfully grounded, though no less capable of sending your imagination spinning so high that indeed, you might experience a bit of Vertigo.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Who’s the proud owner of a pretty sweet handlebar mustache.  Someone say Mark Twain impersonator!