This week, “Colder” got special treatment because of its frankly disturbing as all get-out cover (which is why we loved it). Of course, as the old maxim goes, you can’t judge a book by the man feeling the inside of his face on its cover, and so we just had to pick it up and see if the insides were as… promising as what was slapped on front.
Naturally, we judge the cover, too.
Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
Declan Thomas’s body temperature is dropping. He never gets sick, never feels pain. An ex-inmate of an insane asylum that was destroyed in a fire, he has the strange ability to step inside a person’s madness and sometimes cure it. He hopes to one day cure his own, but time is running out, because when his temperature reaches zero . . . it’s over.
* From the creative team behind the Falling Skies comic!
* A new horror comic in the vein of Locke & Key and Preacher.
Alright, first things first: look at that cover. It’s a part of the comic, isn’t it? Indeed, the cover is typically the first thing you notice about a comic, particularly when you’re shopping straight from the comic shop’s shelf. Good covers can turn a maybe into a yes, and bad ones can make someone realize “Eh, I really wasn’t that interested, anyway.” Looking at the cover from a technical perspective, Juan Ferreyra is clearly a talented artist — close-ups on faces are common choices for comic covers, but this compositional choice can sometime reveal an artist’s lack of precision. Not so here. The cover shows that Ferreyra has an impressive grasp on anatomy, even when working close-up, and that he knows how to deliver just enough realistic detail without unintentionally approaching the unecessary. Then there’s… well, the whole hand-in-face thing. A cover should grab your attention, shouldn’t it? This one might put some people off, considering its graphic nature, but it certainly will attract attention — and besides, at least it is graphic in a very, very unique way. Kudos to Ferreyra for daring to do something so polarizing with his first cover for this mini, and for doing it so well.
But let’s move on to the comic itself.
One of the first things you will notice when flipping open “Colder” is that the art inside the book doesn’t quite match that on the cover — it’s clearly the same artist, but it is readily apparent that he’s doing something different with his interiors. Despite how great the cover is, it is important to stress that this is not a bad thing. Ferreyra seems to be one of the few artists that understands that unless you’re, say, David Mazzuchelli, the style you use to illustrate your comic’s cover is not going to work as well inside your book without some modification. Ferreyra shifts his style accordingly: his interior work is less interested in the more minute details, which in turn helps it move and breathe. Whether it’s a mugging or a conversation, Ferreyra’s art does not stay static; there’s always something going on, whether overt or subtle (and his style is certainly more playful than the cover might imply!). At the same time, though, Ferreyra’s work is very much grounded in reality, not allowing stylization to stand in the way of a solid sense of anatomy and body language. In fact, it is Ferreyra’s grasp of anatomy that helps the more outlandish parts of the book; the antagonist, Nimble Jack, is made all the more unnatural solely because the way he twists and turns theoretically could be done by the human body — they just really, really shouldn’t. Ferreyra is the newest name to my list of artists to look out for, but with this first issue of “Colder” it looks like he won’t be off it until he’s a permanent fixture in my favorites.
Ferreyra’s excellent art may be the main attraction, but Paul Tobin’s story is pretty enjoyable as well. As usual, his dialogue is solid, finding that comfortable medium between flashy and realistic — it’s fun to read, but not so fun that it constantly reminds you “Nobody talks like this!” The exception is the previously mentioned Nimble Jack; it is clear that Jack is not of this world, and so rules such as believabile dialogue are free to be stretched by the writer, but Jack’s dialogue is the kind that attempts to be creepy in how overly pleasant it is. It isn’t as bad as it is uninteresting, and while he is the only hitch in Tobin’s otherwise quite well-done dialogue, he is undoubtedly going to be a major player, and perhaps a major pain. The issue also has a typical case of first issue syndrom: the premise is interesting enough, and Tobin is able to get in as much exposition as possible without being stifling, but it’s at the cost of a clear direction of plot. Despite all the neat things Tobin teases at — and there are quite a bit — the issue ends without much momentum, relying entirely on its cliffhanger to attract readers to issue number two. It’s a good, if standard, coping mechanism for the inherent problems in serialized media, but it hurts the chances of readers remembering to return to a book that otherwise shows promise. A cliffhanger might temporarily excite readers for the next installment, but it takes a clear direction to keep the book fresh in readers’ minds.
Don’t get me wrong, though — “Colder” is off to a very solid start, presenting a comic that stands out as something truly unique. Paul Tobin has seemingly come up with a story unlike anything he, or many other people, has written yet, and while this first issue has that typical first issue problem of a lack of direction for said interesting story… well, it’s a typical first issue problem. Even if the next issue is still a bit shaky, though, at least we’ll have more of the excellence that is Jaun Ferreyra.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – But that cover still gives me the heebie-jeebies.