Critical Hit #1
by Matt Miner, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer & Doug Garbark
From Black Mask Studios comes a new series that will certainly grab a reader’s attention with its first page. Matt Miner has teamed up with Jonathan Sawyer and Doug Garbark to bring a story about a group of animal rights activists who have decided to stop playing nice and enact a bit of vengeance on some hunters. The first issue of Critical Hit covers a lot of ground and fills out its cast pretty impressively while still offering an engaging and well-paced story.
In the opening act of issue one, Miner offers readers some narration text to give a bit of background information about the person talking. At the same time, readers are witnessing two individuals in masks work their way through a compound, destroying cars and eventually setting the entirety of the grounds ablaze. It is not a new technique in the graphic novel format, but when used well, the splitting of the space to cover two different stories is a very captivating approach. The amount of exposition that Miner packs into the opening twelve pages is dense and could otherwise feel like a slog to work through.
Not only is it well crafted and interesting on its own, but the visuals that are paired with it tell a completely different and very exciting sequence. Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Doug Garbark do a really great job with both pacing and perspective in these scenes and the final image, a double-page spread, is a fantastic conclusion to the first act. What is interesting is that it is unclear exactly who is talking or if these individuals in the panels are the story’s protagonists or villains. Either way, readers will be well into the story before they take a breath and consider what kind of story they might be reading. It is a great approach to a first issue.
From there the book jumps backwards and further fills in the audience about some of the characters in the cast. Here, the interactions are witnessed instead of recounted and Miner, along with the artists Sawyer and Garbark produce a real sense of weight and human emotion in these pages. The events are not always depicted, but what is implied in writing and communicated by the physicality of the characters is quite effective. Readers meet Sarah, Jeanette and their group of friends as the crew discuss plans to take their activism to the next level. The story works its way towards meeting up with where it opened and a bit more about how the individuals are tied to this cause.
Miner does a great job scripting natural conversation that provides glimpses into these characters and their history, offering just enough without impeding the momentum of the story. The issue works its way back to its opening sequence and leaves readers on a climactic moment. There are still a number of questions in play as Miner leaves a lot off the page, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the story takes shape in the coming issues.