By Iván Brandon, Esad Ribić, & Nic Klein
“Space gladiators” is the concept Iván Brandon had that would eventually become VS and that’s exactly what readers get. In a time where first-person shooter video games and virtual/augmented reality are becoming more prevalent and popular, this comic becomes an interesting reflection of the present. The core of this premiere issue revolves around two sides amidst a brutal and taught game of warfare. One man stands out above rest, Satta Flynn. As the issue unfolds, readers will learn this battle is not quite what it seems and that there is far more at play in this universe.
The entire creative team came together to create a captivating package from cover to cover. From Esad Ribić’s detailed, potent pages with Nic Klein’s impressionable color work, to the graphics and lettering implemented for the specifics of this material, is a real marvel to experience. Unfortunately, the script seems to be a bit a lacking. Having the gladiatorial sequences be the primary focus of the issue, while deeply visceral and engaging, barely scratches the surface of the what this story is ultimately about. Fleeting scenes are given that help provide more context of the situation(s) and setting(s), but it feels as if they wanted the combat to be front and center, while exposition narrative took a backseat. Perhaps that was intentional, but there should be a better balance.
Now, that’s really the only major criticism of this comic. There is enough ground laid and forceful content that will make the audience want more by the end. They will most likely be so arrested with what has been presented that there’s no choice, but to follow-up with issue two. Somehow, the creatives have tapped into something invigorating with this title, perhaps it is all the action that is depicted that one can ride on that imaginative high. The use of particular graphics and lettering plays with the format and the narrative, practically making it a meta-narrative. They’re two components that elevate the comic and make-up for a bit of lack of exposition.
Ribić delivers some of the best sequential art of his career with this title. Whether it be the characters; settings; technology; or clothing, the design and world building that is presented is innovative and alluring. That’s also due in large part to Klein’s color work. He brings a soft, yet vital level to panels. The consistent contrast of cool and warm hues makes everything rendered stand out. Esad Ribić’s work deserves this deft touch to show readers all the minute details that make this comic feel lived-in and whole. The layouts are simple enough in design, but it’s how Ribić and Nic Klein fill those panels. Absolutely nothing feels half-done or superfluous – it’s sharp and direct storytelling. This also serves the material of battle that is meant to be fast-paced and tense. The art team is able to deliver that with small, but important elements such as popping veins on character’s arms, the pupils and irises in their eyes or the lines on faces. It’s almost too much to take in.
There is something elemental, primal, about VS. The title alone evokes a heightened importance that this is an event to behold and engage in. The entire team behind the book are able to tap into and deliver on that unspoken feeling with a comic that feels familiar, yet fresh at the same time. It walks that fine line of not being derivative, but influences are clear and readers will pick up on that and appreciate it. Image has presented another comic that has the potential to be a pillar of its medium and a representation of the times.