Ten years after a portion of Philadelphia was transported to the alien dimension of Oblivion, Nathan Cole is still trying to save the people trapped there, even after the rest of the world has moved on. With “Oblivion Song” #1, Robert Kirkman and his co-creator and artist, Lorenzo De Felici, create a story equal parts exciting trek into an alien dimension and exploration of tragedy. Find out more about Oblivion with some spoilers ahead.
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Lorenzo De Felici
Colored by Annalisa Leoni
Lettered by Rus Wooton
A decade ago, 300,000 citizens of Philadelphia were suddenly lost in Oblivion. The government made every attempt to recover them, but after many years, they gave up. Nathan Cole…won’t. He makes daily trips, risking his life to try and rescue those still living in the apocalyptic hellscape of Oblivion. But maybe…Nathan is looking for something else? Why can’t he resist the siren call of the Oblivion Song?
From the premise alone, it is hard to talk about “Oblivion Song” without mentioning Kirkman’s other post-apocalyptic story. But, aside from their writer, “Oblivion Song” and “The Walking Dead” share very little DNA with each other. Where “The Walking Dead” is a story focused on the kind of things people do to each other when society breaks down and the ways that people try to move back toward a sense of normalcy, “Oblivion Song” has the exact opposite on its mind. This is a story about a world that experienced a tragedy and then moved on, easily regaining that the normalcy the characters in “The Walking Dead” have never quite been able to settle into. Where that story is about trying to move past tragedy, “Oblivion Song” is instead a story that is focused on making sure that a tragedy has meaning in a world that is content to move past it.
Of course, that all makes “Oblivion Song” #1 sound like a bit of a slog. It’s not. While the book clearly has heavy topics on its mind, that doesn’t stop it from having some fun. The opening 11 pages are all action, following a sequence in Oblivion with about five total lines of dialogue, most of which are exclamations. All the characters in the opening are imbued with a frantic sense of movement, and there is a palpable terror in the eyes of those that have been trapped in Oblivion.
On top of that, De Felici does great work on the world of Oblivion. Every surface is covered in grotesque, fleshy growths. The monsters themselves are simple, but still alien and disgusting. Much of this can also be attributed to Annalisa Leoni’s colors, which give all of Oblivion it’s pinkish coloring, spotted with vomit green boils. The part of Oblivion that Nathan is traveling into is the missing part of Philadelphia, and the art team is able to create a world that feels both alien and familiar.
That all stands in stark contrast to the world Nathan Cole returns to, which is, for all intents and purposes, just our world. While there is a chunk of Philadelphia now missing, most of the world around it has now moved on. “Oblivion Song” #1 deals with the characters that haven’t. Nathan is still obsessed with bringing people back from Oblivion. One of the men that he is working with, who Nathan saved from Oblivion, is clearly dealing with some amount of PTSD.
There is a moment, about half way through the issue, where we see a monument that has been erected with the names of all those lost in the tragedy. Nathan has gone through and, as he has rescued people, scratched their names off stone monument. The page starts with a close up on one of the names, and with each panel they slowly pull back, and we can see the hundreds of names around it. While a few names have been crossed off, most are still there, either lost or waiting to be saved. A perfect distillation of where Nathan is in relation to the world around him. For the rest of the world, this is something that happened, but the time to worry about it has past. For Nathan, it is a crisis still happening, and something that can still be helped.Continued below
There are a few problems with “Oblivion Song” #1. In the portions of the issue that take place on Earth, where it is just people, talking and walking around, De Felici’s faces have a few too many lines on them, for my taste. This is, of course, the tiniest of nitpicks. Similarly, the characters still need to be fleshed out. Many of the characters in this first issue are still a bit lightly sketched, but only time and more issues will tell if they turn into more fully realize characters. Part of that might be because in this first issue, there is a certain amount of time that needed to be spent on exposition, setting up the world. And while the exposition never really drags down the issue, there is just a lot of it.
But those are all pretty minor issues. As a whole, “Oblivion Song” #1 is a good first issue. Kirkman’s story had me wanting to read more, and De Felici’s art made me want to spend more time in Oblivion. All in all, this is an exciting beginning to what will hopefully be an epic on par with Kirkman’s other series.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Oblivion Song” #1 is an exciting debut. An issue full of action, while still dealing with some heavy, personal topics.