By Curt Pires, Eric Scott Pfeiffer, Colin Bell, and Ryan Ferrier
Fame is filthy. Success is fleeting. Desires become obsessions become addictions become hollow white noise. But the search for happiness? Well, that’s forever. Getting everything you thought you ever wanted comes at a price as it is, but when you get it all by invoking black magic? Shit. There are shortcuts and then there are shortcuts with big time repercussions. The Forevers #1 doesn’t pull you into its story, it drags you in and makes you look at the ugly beneath all the glitzy veneer. Pires, Pfeiffer, Bell, and Ferrier have crafted a debut issue that rollicks in the muck we foolishly aspire to; it’s effectively dark and unsettling in how deeply it lays bare the shallowest parts of desire. The Forevers teeters on the precipice of nihilism, but the aesthetic and refusal to guide the reader by the hand make it thoroughly captivating with the deftly restrained elements of magic and mystery. It is a challenging read for all the right reasons; not only is the larger picture intentionally obscured and tantalizingly teased, but it forces you to ask yourself “what would make me happy?”
While being able to relate to a rock star or a supermodel or Hollywood starlet isn’t an organic rousing of empathy, Pires’ script cleverly manages to hit home because the idea of getting something you’ve always wanted (let alone everything you’ve always wanted) and having it completely unravel is a familiar fear. With that emotional underpinning informing the tone, Pires focuses much of the energy on his characters in a manner that feels personal, which helps because he isn’t afraid to show how vile they can truly be. There’s a longing found here in these characters that battles the bad decisions with we all make until it’s fully jumbled into a mess where what’s real and what’s not gets indecipherable. The overarching plot isn’t inherently clear by design save for the grand opening and we’re left to wonder many of the “how”s and “why”s as Pire digs further into the “who”s. In doing so, the emotional prongs take greater hold even if said emotions are uncomfortable and it successfully aids in creating an uneasiness throughout. All the better for the threat violently introduced by issue’s end even more dangerous.
Jamie Ashby, our addiction-riddled rock star, is in the spotlight the most this first issue, though we get some time with a few of the others, with two scenes in particular laying out exactly what kind of asshole he is and the asshole he pretends to be. Over drinks with one of the six others that warped time and space with those 10 years ago (“The Event”) and former flame/supermodel, Kate Sage, Pires portrays Jamie as the height of narcissism, the result of a lifetime of lying to himself. This comes just after a funeral where Jamie is unable to recognize that the emotion he felt towards a father figure was love. Later on, while performing in the “washed-up old twat” slot of an awards show, Pires incorporates the issues’ only use of caption boxes to highlight Jamie’s longing to have it end in a moment of purity while on stage. Let it all wash away. He’s fifteen years old again rocking out in his buddy’s garage. He got what he wanted and now all he wants is to have it end in this moment feeling like he did well before the seven of them cast gathered together that night and lit it all aflame.
Wrangling this myriad of hedonistic pangs and fluid states of being is Eric Pfeiffer, who has taken a dramatic departure in art style from past work. Pfeiffer has elected to take a fully painted, photo-realistic approach to The Forevers and in doing so establishes a visual dream trance of a world. Like the decibels bursting forth from an amp, there’s a distortion to the reality that Pfeiffer shapes. Figures may be painted with a realistic nod, but the world they occupy, the colors that entangle them especially, is often an expressionistic minefield. Settings are stretched or subtlety fish-eyed or awash in brush striations like a fun house mirror of luminescent sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. With a digital edge, there’s a visceral uncertainty to the slick as oil rain-soaked streets and sullied clubs. It’s an uncomfortable experience (though still gorgeous) that’s made all the more effective by having these realistic characters moored atop of all the madness. That photo-realism does fall victim on occasion to the expected stiffness of characters (probably most seen in the aforementioned conversation over drinks scene) and recognizable real world celebrity resemblances that pull you out and stall the narrative for a blip, but there remains an undeniable vitality to the art as a whole. The palette is certainly ominous with its sickly cool greens, greys, and mustards, but Pfeiffer provides glimmers of real palpable hope with violets and explosive rouge. There’s an ambition here that matches Pires’ equally bold script and there’s something enchanting about the harsh, raw, and completely dark vibe of the book that’s born from visuals that are, above all else, smooth as hell.
Smartly and minimally rounding out the punk static aesthetic are Colin Bell’s letters and Ryan Ferrier’s design contributions. Bell had a difficult task on his hands in order to convincingly incorporate comic lettering atop a more realistic visual style, but he does so with precision and care. The moments where panels get crowded (again, Jamie and Kate at the bar) are far more due to the few moments of Pires’ verbosity than Bell’s doing. Of specific note is his eye for balance and guiding the readers’ eye across the page, perhaps best illustrated in a back and forth cell phone conversation between Jamie’s handler and agent that makes use of well-designed cell phone dialogue and text messaging captions.
Ferrier caps it all off with a minimalist, music influenced introductory credits page and back cover that are planate and stylish at once.
Much like it’s characters, being off-putting in terms of tone and dynamic is part of the charm and the emotional resonance of realizing that risk of getting what you want means finding out how worthless it really is. Magic, mystery and menace presented with a defiant flair, The Forevers #1 dares to present you with few answers and lots of ugly truths.