With new comics on hold for the foreseeable future, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we’re calling New To You Comics. Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. He tends to drift toward the Superhero and Sci-Fi genres, and I pretty much stick to Horror, Noir, and Thrillers. Sometimes our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The challenge here is for me to introduce Tony to some titles he probably missed on first pass, and for Tony to hit me with some of the stuff he really likes that I haven’t read. All of the titles we will discuss will be brand new to one of us, and all are available on digital platforms. You should be able to access them even if your local shop is temporarily closed or out of stock.
For this first installment, I chose Dark Horse Comics’ Negative Space TPB for Tony.
Here’s what Dark Horse says about Negative Space:
When one man’s writer’s block gets in the way of his suicide note, he goes for a walk to clear his head and soon uncovers a century-old conspiracy dedicated to creating and mining the worst lows of human desperation. A corporation has manipulated his life purely so they can farm his suicide note as a sadness artifact that will be packed and shipped to ancient underwater creatures who feed off our strongest and most base emotions. Our hero partners with a cult intent on exposing the corporation, and only a suicide mission can solve the whole mess. Collects Negative Space #1–#4
Brendan Allen: All right, Tony, so this thing obviously leans into two of my favorite genres. The cover shows you straight out the chute that Negative Space dabbles in horror. Then when you crack the thing open, you notice straight away that it has the hallmarks of noir, being told from the perspective of a failed writer in the middle of an intense depressive episode. A few pages in, it introduces those Dark World/Matrix Sci-Fi themes, so it ends up landing squarely in your yard as well. What did you think of the story?
Tony Thornley: I really enjoyed this book. It has futuristic dystopian elements while being firmly grounded in the present. It’s an extremely weird blend of genres — science fiction, psychological horror, creature horror, and character drama. Urban science fiction is a genre that I don’t think gets used enough in pop culture, and it creates the perfect foundation for the horror to come. Props to Ryan Lindsay.
Tony: I really enjoy Owen Gieni’s work here too. I was really only familiar with him as a color artist (seriously go read Manifest Destiny to see how good a colorist he is) so this is a bit of a revelation for me. He strikes a balance between cartooning and realism that heightens the horror of the story perfectly.
Brendan: I think you were only a few pages in when you texted me something like, “Good grief, I love this art.” Gieni’s loose, slightly caricatured line work conveys a whole lot of emotion. Sadness, grief, and depression, chiefly. Tons of little subliminal hits throughout. Definitely worth a second and third pass on this one to catch all the little details and callbacks missed on the first read.
Brendan: I love that they included the covers as chapter stops in the TP. There are subtle (and not so subtle) little hints and pops on the covers themselves that add a lot to the story.
Tony: The covers in this are great! Gieni uses the covers to introduce concepts, starting with the monsters- the Evdorah- our lead character Guy’s empathic abilities, and Kindred- the evil empire behind them. However, they’re also brilliantly composed.
Tony: And let me tell you I love horror as a metaphor. Here the story examines depression and anxiety through a science fiction lens. It doesn’t excuse it as something Kindred or the Evdorah created and can be destroyed, but instead something that terrible people exploited. There are so many damn real world parallels (with figurative monsters, not literal) to that that it’s almost painful.
Brendan: Yes! All of that! I knew you’d come around. You’re starting to speak my language.
Brendan: All right, let’s get the official verdict. I obviously love this book. It’s the very first thing I thought of when we were conceptualizing this feature. Was Negative Space a hit or a miss for you?
Tony: It was a hit for me. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even despite a few flaws I saw. My one hang-up is that I think it needed to do a little more character building, because the pace is so breakneck that it never really takes a moment to breathe and let us get to know these people. But overall, it’s a really strong book that I’d love to revisit.
Brendan: Also, while we’re here, why don’t you let me know what title is on deck for me?
Tony: I am throwing you in the deep end! I debated long and hard about whether I should do a horror tinged superhero book, like Kraven’s Last Hunt or Immortal Hulk, but since you presented this to me as an opportunity to get you into some cape books, it reminded me of one series in particular — Astonishing X-Men: Gifted! Yup, I’m shoving you right into the X-Men with the story that got them back into colorful spandex after the leather era of Gran Morrison! I hope you survive the experience. Heh heh heh.
Negative Space TPB, Dark Horse Books, 06 July 2016. Written by Ryan K. Lindsay, art by Owen Gieni, with letters by Ryan Ferrier.
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of Negative Space TPB for $6.50 at Comixology right here. Amazon has physical copies for $10 here, and TFAW has it in stock for $11.99 plus shipping here.