by Paul Allor and Juan Romera
Sometimes stories that involve the occult, myths, and other popular aspects of fringe science can get so focused on these bits that they step too far away from that which connects them to reality. Paul Allor’s Strange Nation may look to focus entirely on those elements, but that is not quite true. Though the lead in this story is determined to investigate such topics, Allor manages to keep his lead at the foreground of the series. This choice grounds the series and exponentially magnifies the impact it has on its readers.
Norma was once a respected investigative journalist who lived and breathed her career. This tenacity for the job is how readers are introduced to her. As the story continues it becomes clear that through her work she came across things so difficult to believe that in publishing them she was dismissed from the industry. Now blacklisted, Norma is ever-committed to bringing the truth to light by any means she can. In the first chapter readers learn of a massive corporation, DUMA, that has thousands of employees and dozens of sites but for no stated purpose.
There is a ton of great intrigue on display in the opening chapter of this new Monkeybrain series. Allor does a fantastic job layering in both immediate mysteries as well as larger mysteries in this new universe. This is well matched by the art from Juan Romera. The characters all feel unique and specific to this story. In addition some of the creatures within DUMA are curious, though only subtly altered. The book looks very dark as much of it either takes place at night. Additionally, the coloring on the book is a bit more constant and less varied, making for a bit more simplistic finished look.
At its core, this first issue is very aware of the human element of the story. Allor steps away from the espionage story to have Norma attend a family function. Though it initially seems like an odd choice, this inclusion adds much depth to the series. Not only will there be a great mystery at hand, but readers will feel all the more engaged because of their relationship with the cast. Norma reflects on her sense of alienation in her own home. There are also sequences that reflect on the cost of choices and the different ways that people experience the effects of these choices and different forms of loss. These elements do not weight down the energy of the former portion of the chapter, but instead add the right amount of depth to its protagonist.
In addition to a solid opening mystery, Allor and Romera have created a series that will surprise audiences with how much more it has to offer.