Explore the end of the world with “Evolution,” a book that evokes a creeping dread in the back of your brain and teases the start of a body horror mystery set to shock you. Read on for our review, which contains minor spoilers.
Written by James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Joe Infurnari
Colored by Jordan Boyd
Lettered by Pat Brosseau
Human evolution has taken millions of years to get to this stage. But next week, we become something new. Around the world, humanity is undergoing rapid and unpredictable changes, and only three individuals seem to notice that their world is being reborn. But what can they do about it? Skybound unites writers JAMES ASMUS, JOSEPH KEATINGE, CHRISTOPHER SEBELA & JOSHUA WILLIAMSON and artists JOE INFURNARI & JORDAN BOYD to create a new global phenomenon in this oversized debut issue.
“Evolution” is, appropriately enough, an experiment. Four writers (Sebela, Asmus, Keatinge, and Williamson), each seemingly tackling a different plot thread, brought together by the art of Infurnari, Boyd, and Brosseau. It’s a fascinating concept and one that will no doubt test the skills of all involved in order to create a cohesive whole, one which aims to explore the creeping, visceral, unseen death of mankind as we know it.
The story starts with an ominous opening page depicting some form of ritual. Cloaked figures, most wearing bizarre cubes on their heads, one wielding a strange, alien artifact; the dialogue speaks of the end of the world and the script tells us this was Then. After that scene-setting creepfest, we move forward to Now, and three intertwined yet separate stories that each seem to be dealing with what looks to be a vicious disease that ravages and transforms the body in unpredictable ways. A doctor in Philadelphia conducting experiments in secret; a nun in Rome confronting the horrifically afflicted; a young woman in L.A. whose simple delivery of an old movie reel takes a terrifying turn. All these tales, disparate as they may be, each hold a piece to a larger puzzle that’s slowly being revealed.
There’s something wonderfully retro about the book’s aesthetic. The cover design of “Evolution” #1 is reminiscent of those schlocky VHS tapes that you were too young to understand but were mesmerized by in the store. Neon on black, with an ambiguously horrific image that you couldn’t quite make out; you were disgusted but intrigued despite yourself. Inside the book itself, there’s less visual shock and more slow dread. Each tale contains moments of visceral gore, but more than that, every page is paced like it’s a slow march towards something inevitable. The prevailing visual assault is that of body-horror: the doctor examining a young boy with what looks like deep scratches; Sister Hannah in Rome attempting to calm a man with an unfathomable arm, engorged with blood and covered with impossible welts and lesions; Claire in California confronted with a violent, bloody death at the hands of a family friend.
Much like the book’s cover design, Infurnari’s artistic influences take you straight back to those same VHS tapes, the ones you stole from your older siblings, sneaking a watch late at night without your parents watching. Carpenter, Craven, and Cronenberg are all here and evident in the pacing, the angles, the lighting. Cronenberg is especially present, his trademark body horror frightening all of us ever since we were way too young to have any right to be. Interestingly enough, Infurnari switches up his style ever so slightly between each plot thread, giving a distinct separation between the segments whilst still maintaining a visual through-line. The scenes in Rome, for example, seem to be depicted with a heavier line, perhaps emulating the weight of the Sister’s responsibilities and the burden of faith. When we cut to Dr. Hurley, his backgrounds are more detailed to perhaps simulate the clinical examination of the world that Hurley is conducting.
Similarly, Boyd’s colors are superbly varied, ensuring that not only does each storyline have its own look, but each scene. The opening pages with Dr. Hurley are cold and clinical; the first half of Claire’s story is washed out, sepia tones to emulate the nostalgia she feels as she sifts through her parent’s belongings. Sister Hannah’s confrontation in the chapel is the most evocative: drenched in deep reds and shadows, contrasting the usually safe space of a church with the primal colors of danger and the unknown. When violence erupts in front of Claire later in the book, Infurnari’s panels slice across the page, opening up to full-bleeds that explode outwardly to meet you. Boyd’s colors are messy but bold and unflinching, and Brosseau’s sound effects rip through the imagery. Each of these storylines ends with a full-page splash that progresses their respective narratives in unexpected ways and provides a tantalizing tease for their second chapters.Continued below
“Evolution” #1 is a book that very much wears its influences on its sleeve, but clearly from page one, this is a series that the creators are thrilled to be bringing to us. It’s a love letter to horror shone through multiple lenses: apocalyptic on one hand, body-horror on another, the threat of the unknown in front of you, the threat of yourself behind. It explores the concept of a hidden horror, unseen to all but a few (a classic but welcome trope), and delights in holding back just enough information to draw you in closer, before dropping something deeply unsettling in your lap. This is an exciting, energetic book, and what’s surprising for a series with so many creators is that “Evolution” brings with it a singular, unified purpose: to terrify and to entertain.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – A visceral thrill-ride. Scary, engaging and so much fun.