By Eliot Rahal, Daniel Kibblesmith, and Kendall Goode
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. But then you might just get shot in the face or get wrapped up in some interplanetary hostile corporate takeover scheme with all sorts of aliens and it’s your last god damn day on the job anyway, so sometimes it’s best to just not answer the door. Welcome to The Doorman, a gag-filled science fiction romp with a surprisingly engaging and relatable lead that manages to find that sweet homeostasis between the ridiculous and the workaday.
Every planet can be accessed via a door and each of these doors is attended to by a, you guessed it, doorman (or porter, if you prefer the less philistine terminology). Henry Clay Waters is Earth’s doorman, smack dab in the middle of the Bosch-ian hell hole of Times Square and on his last day on the job, there’s assassination attempts, detectives, corporation hodge podgery, bullet holes in more heads than you can count…mass hysteria. That’s the basic premise and it’s rife with little spices of all your favorite adventure science fiction franchises from Stargate to Doctor Who to Sliders, with just a pinch of Groening meets Looney Tunes flair.
The enthusiastic efforts of Rahal, Kibblesmith, and Goode (note: not a law firm, contact for counsel at your own peril) aren’t just evident, they’re downright giddy in their execution. The Doorman #1 asks if you’re ready to go after already stepping on the gas and then tells you to ‘just take it easy, this’ll be fun.’ While it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s still a hearty amount of emotional heft behind the antics not the least of which is tightly depicted in Henry’s ennui regarding spending 40 years dutifully living to a code and yet not really living. The script’s forward momentum is buoyed by those very brief (perhaps too brief and stilted) moments of what it means to follow the rules laid out by others and how fulfilling it really is to define yourself by them. Rahal and Kibblesmith aren’t doing a deep dive into existentialism by any means, but their main character is developed sincerely which greatly enhances your ability to go with the absurdity. It’s also worth noting that Henry isn’t yet another white protagonist nor is his female companion (the figuring it out as she goes along Detective Flowers) a one dimensional plot device, both of which are a welcome dose of diversity.
If this is a little one-note, it’s largely the result of the never let up adventure pace that both Henry and the reader are thrown into and just sort of have to go with. That one-note, however, is an F for fun (I’m so sorry). It isn’t trying to be some deep, allegorically rich examination of the human condition; it’s a far lighter affair that’s concerned with juggling humor with some legit action in a setting rife with potential. Its not bitingly sharp or even all that snarky with its dialogue, but instead refreshingly sincere in its quips that subtlety inform the characters. That last page does pack a heck of a darker wallop than one might have assumed, a fine cliffhanger that reminds you that amidst all of the rich world building, nothing is necessarily following set genre guidelines.
The real breakout here is artist Kendall Goode who does the heaviest of lifting by tackling pencils, inks, colors, letters, and the covers to boot. Show off. Goode’s the reason all the jokes land and all the action propels with fervent veracity. Obviously, his clean style lends itself exceptionally well to the comedic vibes and the ‘anything can happen’ tone as he builds an entire universe and its ground rules. There’s an air of Mike Allred to his bold facial expressions and emotive eyes, and a Tex Avery sensibility to the body language. Backgrounds are rife with Art Deco infused future skylines and vehicles that are texturally smooth and hyper-clean. The aesthetic fits wonderfully with Rahal and Kibblesmith’s controlled mania and if it falls short anywhere, it’s on wider shots where a lot of character detail is sparse when compared to the well attended close-ups.
Goode really shines in three areas: the vibrant color palette, the design choices, and perhaps most of all, the background gags. All these elements thoroughly enrich and inform this world and for a first issue, completely establish what type of unexpectedness can be expected. The menagerie of weirdos, business awnings, and advertisements, and their distinct reactions in Times Square are wonderfully mirrored in the even more bizarre equivalents on the alien world Synergos; one of which is undoubtedly holding a $5 Hugs signs. The colors are a richly saturated, high value affair that incorporate a modicum of shading to keep things bouncing with the laser shots and quips spewing forth, but complement each other well in a nice balance of cools and warms. The aforementioned Art Deco-sensibility also pairs really well with the quasi-retro clothing and alien designs; think Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but you know, actually good.
Hitting the mark on virtually every item one would want of a first issue, The Doorman #1 tantalizes the imagination while tickling your funny bones. If you’re looking to fill the void of an Ivar, Timewalker or if you’re a mark for anything even remotely Whovian, The Doorman has you covered.
The Doorman #1 will be released March 16th, 2016 from Heavy Metal.