by Shaun Simon, Tyler Jenkins and Kelly Fitzpatrick
The first issue of Neverboy was unexpected, unique and rather strange. Shaun Simon’s new story challenged readers in its opening chapter by appearing rather unassuming, strategically dropping hints and pulling back the veil in the final moments. The story became something completely different by its end and demanded a reread. That kind of delivery is difficult to repeat and Neverboy #2 was unlikely to take the same path. Rightly so, Simon takes a different approach in the second issue and spends a bit more time letting the reader in on what is happening. This new series from Dark Horse Comics is a refreshing read, though its second issue spends a bit long on explanations.
Opening in a very different place and with different characters, a man named Julian Drag is shopping around his art in an attempt to find a wall on which it would be hung. It doesn’t take long for readers to see just what is going on and who Drag is. The character development over just a few short pages thanks to strong writing and excellent art direction from Jenkins communicates so much about this new character. Much like the first issue, the creative team behind Neverboy are able to do a lot within a very short space. The man, a once respectable artist, has fallen on hard times and has resorted to driving a cab to try to make ends meet. In an incredible sequence, the once-respected artist has the unfortunate fate of driving two art students back to school. The exchange between them is incredible and the degree to which Drag is broken comes across without any need to state outwardly. The physicality of the character matched with the dialogue of these young college students make for quite the emotional sequence. Jenkins, despite using a much looser and unconventional style, is impressive in just how well he is able to capture human emotion on the face and body language of his characters.
Eventually, Simon clues readers in on what the second issue is doing, subtly. Like the opening chapter of Neverboy, the second issue has pieces from the very beginning that give hints as to what might be transpiring. Simon brings this into the focus earlier this time, and it is not as shattering a reveal as the last. However, it does not appear to be trying to reach that degree either. Instead, the second issue seems much more intent on clueing this new character, and readers too, into just what is happening in this new world. There is a great deal of exposition when Neverboy and Drag meet Vanessa. Though much of the information is helpful in clarifying the many strange occurrences, names and images that seem to defy explanation thus far, there is a bit too much provided in this one conversation. Some restraint is still a good thing for a story like this, and it feels a bit like Simon gives the readers more information than they need to keep following the book. Still, the story maintains its pacing and intrigue beyond this sequence and there remain a number of layers to explore down the road.
Much like the first issue, the art direction in the issue is quite impressive. Jenkins is a perfect fit for this universe that blends reality and fantasy on many panels. His understanding of page layouts and sequencing create some really excellent moments in each of the first two issues thus far. Likewise, Kelly Fitzpatrick does an excellent job with the coloring of the issue. The colors match the story well, keeping many of the scenes grounded through somewhat muted purples and yellows. But the story is always just a few panels away from a tidal wave of a rainbow swirl and Fitzpatrick’s choices are a great fit with the pencils from Jenkins. Together, the finished product of the story feels as though it is constantly teetering between grounded reality and the surreal. That aesthetic is absolutely necessary for the story Shaun Simon has established and not an easy one to do as convincingly as is done here.
Even though there is a bit of a stall in the momentum of the issue as Vanessa and Neverboy do a bit too much explaining, the second issue is still incredibly captivating. There are so many possibilities for what could come next in this story. Simon has a supremely unique tale on his hands, and with Jenkins and Fitzpatrick, Neverboy is absolutely a story to watch.