The first issue of Nowhere Men got a solid 8.0 from us, establishing an interesting new universe in which a “Fab Four” group of scientists have gained international popularity… and notoriety. The second issue continues on similar lines in that there isn’t a whole lot of plot or thematic depth as of yet, but the world-building and the characters are still interesting and complex enough that’s it’s easy to get invested in this story.
Written by Eric Stephenson
Illustrated by Nate Bellegarde
There are fates worse than death.
As that ominous solicit hints, this issue tightens its focus on the ailing group of researchers we encountered last issue — the one which, it turned out, was quarantined on a space station. Getting sicker every day, and receiving no indication that World Corp plans to let them come home, or even let the general population know they’re up there, it’s safe to say that tensions are mounting among this significantly younger group. It gets to be enough that, by the end of the issue, the researchers are pushed into action — but what kind of action it ultimately was, and what its consequences were, are left for the next issue to tell.
Along the way, though, the tensions between the characters as well as the mounting sense of desperation among them are very nicely handled. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that a character who looked somewhat the worse for wear last issue has essentially turned in a big, wet scab, but apart from the physical consequences of the illness there is a neat overarching feeling of distrust and malaise here as the researchers debate their next course of action. Everybody’s personalities — and something of their motivations — are coming through, bit by bit, and the emphasis on character keeps the action interesting even when things aren’t so much happening as being discussed.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that this world as Bellegarde fleshes it out is very easy on the eyes. The most striking aspect of this issue by far are the supplementary one-pagers: fusing an uber-sleek Apple aesthetic with a certain 1960s flair, these faux advertisements and magazine covers are spread throughout the issue, breaking up the pacing a little bit but adding here and there to our store of knowledge concerning this world, and, above all, just looking pretty. There’s even a fairly credible reproduction of a Pelican Books-style paperback at the end — complete with faux “interior” pages that look slightly translucent, just like the real thing.
The art for the rest of the book, meanwhile, is unsettling but eye catching, capturing gesture and expression with an eye for detail that suits the overall character-driven feeling of the comic. You really do get the impression that everybody’s calculating, turning problems over and over in their heads. Bellegarde is also wonderful at getting all the researchers to look ill in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways, really deepening the sense of malaise by making sure everybody looks tangibly tired and cruddy in every panel.
Finally, Jordie Bellaire’s colouring (…it seems I’m singing her praises in almost every review I write) keeps the look bright and retro-futuristic. Plus there’s a great, pivotal moment at the end, where the pages are flooded with ominous red tones to wonderful and suspenseful effect.
My only real complaint with “Nowhere Men” as things stand is that there’s somewhat more concept than meat, and by meat I meant the absorbing, thematic stuff that extends beyond the idiosyncrasies of particular characters or the interesting details as to their world. We’ve got great, intriguing characters negotiating a great, intriguing universe, but in a story that seems to centre on scientists and their dirty dealings there’s surprisingly little emphasis on the moral ambiguity of the proceedings. Nobody’s really discussing or thinking about their actions or their consequences — anything personal, or at all involved in a feeling of guilt or responsibility, is very much being kept under wraps. And while I’m certain that this aspect is going to turn up sooner or later, its absence at the moment does make itself felt.
Otherwise, though, this series is moving along nicely. It looks great, and these characters and this world really are exceptional in terms of their development and nuance. My feeling is that they’ve just got to run into each other a few more times for the thematic depth to come through.
Final Verdict: 8.0 — Keep on buyin’