One of the things about Aftershock Comics that’s most interesting is that it can really go any number of ways. With each book representing a different creator’s world, there is both nothing to limit the series’ creativity and nothing for these series to fall back upon except their inherent quality. Now, with the initial slate of books out of the gate, Aftershock has expanded into Science-Fantasy with Justin Jordan’s Strayer.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Strayer is that it doesn’t necessarily star Strayer. Though we spend most of our time with the titular character, we don’t start with him and he’s not the one whose dreams and aspirations move the plot forward. And, to be honest, that’s one of the most promising elements of this series so far.
Strayer is very much in line with previous Justin Jordan protagonists, a gentle giant with a quick wit and an enormous capacity for violence. I don’t think he’s too redundant or lacks the required distance, but perhaps it’s not surprising to think that Jordan would tell a story about a man with a wild red beard and an appreciation for ultra-violence. But, that’s hardly all Jordan can write and the presence of Mala Tenboom helps to give voice to another side of this story. Mala keeps the story from feeling aimless and helps keep Strayer from feeling like another unstoppable Ubermench of a comic hero, while Strayer, himself, brings the series’ charm.
But despite the intriguing mystery of Strayer, Mala, and their world’s origins, I have to admit that, as of yet, we’ve seen it all before. Strayer #1 is archetypal at best and recycled at worst. Perhaps we haven’t seen the pieces in this specific combination before, but we have seen them and there isn’t really a new twist on them, at least not in this issue.
There’s also an awkward bit of storytelling that hampers the issue. I believe that Jordan was attempting a smash cut, but the final product feels more like we’re missing a page, especially given that there’s never any explanation as to how Strayer fell unconscious. Throw in a consistent issue with the characters just knowing the Titan’s whereabouts and you’ve got a somewhat flawed middle section.
Still, Jordan’s dialogue is charming and the issue ends strongly, if in a somewhat predictable manner.
The art, courtesy of of Juan Gedeon, is very interesting. Slipping back and forth between the sharp and distinct and an oddly appealing lack of detail, there’s no denying that this book has character, even if it’s kind of odd. The characters look just right for their roles and they emote with a charmingly cartoonish force.
Gedeon certainly knows how to make his pages dynamic, and that’s from top to bottom. The characters all have believable movement, the panels are well composed, and the pages are laid out in engaging ways. There are a couple of places where things get a little unclear but, for the most part, the visual storytelling is a definite strength of the issue.
Strayer is off to a nice start, but not a great one. The characters and sensibility are wonderful and the art, while bipolar at times, is strong, however there’s not a lot here to hook the reader yet. It’s a good issue but one worries about it as an issue #1.
Luckily, though Strayer features a slew of familiar concepts, there aren’t a lot of big name comics trying to do what it is at the moment. Justin Jordan is clearly in his element, telling the kind of story that appeals to him and Juan Gedeon is a strong addition to the book. Strayer #1 doesn’t do enough to grab the reader and is weighed down by a couple of awkward moments, but it’s well produced and bursting with personality. I’ll be back next month.