Origins #5 Featured Columns 

Don’t Miss This: “Origins” by Clay McLeod Chapman, Jakub Rebelka, Patricio Delpeche and Jim Campbell

By | March 17th, 2021
Posted in Columns | % Comments

There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, “Origins” #5 hits shelves with the Network tracking down David and Chloe in the vault, a brief but poignant rumination on A.I. sentience and, of course, lots of explosions.

Who’s This By?

The “Origins” team includes creators Arash Amel, Lee Krieger and Joseph Oxford, writer Clay McLeod Chapman (“Whisper Down the Lane,” “Lazaretto,”) artist Jakub Rebelka (“Judas,” “Namesake,”) colorist Patricio Delpeche (“Night Train,” “Fissure,”) letterer Jim Campbell (“Abbott 1973,” “The Last Witch,”) and is published by BOOM! Studios.

What’s This All About?

A post-apocalyptic, cyclical story about the relationship between humans and technology, “Origins” follows a sentient android, Chloe, who revives David, a boy who’s actually the genetic clone of the man who doomed the entire planet to destruction.

The Network is a nanotech nightmare that stripped our plants, animals and world of control and drove us all to extinction. David created it. Now, born again and struggling with his new memories, he has to save us all.

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)

A bit of humor to lighten the grim mood

What Makes It So Great?

“Origins” is interesting not necessarily because of its concept, which is far from unique, but because of its aesthetic and the isolation the creative team is able to model and evoke in the reader. In some ways, it’s the perfect book for a pandemic reality, and not just because it deals with a catastrophic event in human history.

Rebelka’s art is absolutely the star of the show in “Origins,” but Chapman’s scripting toys with linear storytelling in some compelling ways. We first meet David when Chloe revives him, and we follow him through parallel threads: in the present, as he prepares to receive his memory download and learn who he really is, and in the past, as Chloe remembers raising this solitary little boy. Each storyline moves forward in fits and starts, as Chloe’s memories begin to slot together to form a picture of who David is and, by extension, who she is in her care for him. As they journey toward the last vault fueled by a promise of safety and answers, Chapman uses the same time skip cadence to shorten the physical distance they travel into a multiple-issue montage. The series ends up functioning a bit like a parable or an odd tech Pilgrim’s Progress – David in the valleys, David in the mountains, David amongst the robots, David in the bombs. It can be a bit jarring sometimes to stop and determine how much time has passed, but Chapman doesn’t always do the work here. Rebelka signals one particular jump with a weather shift and a messianic David with longer hair.

Art, color and lettering harmony at work

Rebelka’s aesthetic is obviously manga- and BD-inspired, but the use of a thick line and blocky, dynamic anatomy make “Origins” feel like an illuminated manuscript at times, and in good ways. The spread featuring David’s memory download and subsequent revelation in issue #1 is a perfect example of how Delpeche’s careful color consideration enhances Rebelka’s spidery, evocative aesthetic. David features in the middle of the page, haloed by Rebelka’s uneven borderless panels, and Delpeche paints a glowing mix of oranges, reds and yellows to unify the images and inspire feelings of birth and apocalypse simultaneously. Delpeche is also clever with light sources, which appear on the robot bodies especially as smears of lighter pinks and yellows. Given Chapman’s choice to situate David and Chloe’s life in a museum, this fine-art pastiche is an interesting one when it’s applied to nanotechnology, in vitro apparatuses and the generally sleek design of our modern world. We expect it to break down at some point, but the book offers new geographies, animal bodies and tech marvels at a steady pace to delight us and draw us further into what feels like a doomed effort.

Chapman isn’t shy with the violence in this book, but Rebelka and Delpeche play with a bit of humor in the midst of the horror. Even as vines overtake our robot friends or spidery grey nano-tendrils occlude Chloe’s face in issue #5, there’s the repetitive carpet-bombing droids whose blocky BOOMs add just a little something to laugh about – even if it’s ultimately a dark kind of chuckle. Campbell weaves lots of sound effects through these already loaded pages with ease, and the comic aesthetic of some of the rounded letters ups the unreality of the entire situation without breaking our engagement with the text. The city of forgotten robot butlers, stewards and friends is a similar blend of good craft on all levels – Delpeche uses moody sunset hues for the grim city itself, but each robot features an entirely unique design thanks to Rebelka’s imaginative work and a kaleidoscope of small, picked-out color details. We’d be satisfied as readers with a few models or riffs on the deep well of robot media we know and love, but the team takes the time to make each one unique and just a bit cartoonish, and that care matters thematically and aesthetically.

Continued below

The death of a friend in gory, gorgeous detail

Overall, “Origins” might seem like something we’ve read a few times before, but Chapman’s work to spool out the exact nature of the crisis matters. Rebelka and Delpeche’s work together is a real feast on the page, and we can spend a lot of time poring over the details even as the plot marches on. Importantly, there’s no rush because the book focuses on sensory experience first and mythic narrative second, and focusing on either makes for a satisfactory comics experience. I am not a comics reader who will prioritize a beautiful aesthetic over some story meat to back it up, but there’s a simple elegance in “Origins” that supports the kind of visual rumination a lot of readers do go for. Pick this one up and dive into the dreamy colors, brutal landscapes and quirky anatomy.

How Can You Read It?

The penultimate “Origins” #5 is out this week wherever fine comics are sold, and you can find it on Comixology.

//TAGS | Don't Miss This

Christa Harader


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