If you think you know what this story is about, you have no idea what is in store for you.
Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated by Wilfredo Torres
Colored by Bill Crabtree
Lettered by Jim Campbell
In the distant future, private detective, Mr. Verge is hired by Decipher Cosmics, a giant conglomerate responsible for literally all forms of entertainment around the world. Called in to investigate a triple murder at their local headquarters, Verge is immediately pulled into a bizarre rabbit hole of fiction, cultists, and the absurdly wealthy. As things progress, Verge’s confusion mounts until everything he knows may be up for question.
As with the majority of Matt Kindt’s works, “Subgenre” is working on multiple levels and meanings, and not just within the narrative itself. What begins as a pretty straight forward and recognizable cyberpunk detective story, begins to open up with the turn of each page as numerous, seemingly disconnected, variables are brought into the mystery. Verge’s inner monologue is a fun mix of typical detective noir narration and meta commentary that walks the thinnest line of laugh out loud contemptuous observations and fitting in-world opinions. It is Kindt’s signature smiling with blood in your teeth type of satire that is always on point. It gets its multilayered points across without feeling like groan worthy self-important humor. For example, Decipher Cosmics is a clear proxy for something like The Walt Disney Company and its many major company and studio possessions. It may be an obvious representation in how Verge talks about it, but the setting we see is your standard future city skyscraper; a perfect encapsulation of how Kindt works these kinds of ideas in without over-doing it.
The science fiction details and characterizations are all Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, but as Kindt himself writes into the story, it is all familiar and derivative for a reason. It is this kind of story-building that can be so effective when done right. It is subtle, barely winking to the reader that something more is coming, or that something is, at the very least, amiss. It does however lean so heavily in the same old, same old cyberpunk vibes that if you are not careful, you too could succumb to the seemingly unimaginative cyberpunk style and judge this comic, or for-shame, stop reading it prematurely. The mystery that Mr. Verge is hired to look into is really only interesting in the sense that it takes no less than three turns just in this first issue, but even then there is the tickle at the back of your brain saying, “Is this it?” However, it is that other voice in the depths of your mind that tells you to keep going because you can feel that something else is being built up in the shadows and beyond the veneer of the story being told at the forefront.
It is evident that the storytelling diversion is not just a part of the writing, but with the artwork as well. While all of Torres’s talent is at work here, like the writing, the art is also indistinguishable from any number of future set detective stories. The gruff, aging private eye, the massive skyscrapers, the mixture of old tech and new. It is all here and is, for the most part, purposefully uninteresting. Which is bizarre to say about an artist who is always great. He is clearly giving it his all to make things look wildly archetypal while allowing his flair to pop up here and there. He is, of course, allowed to shine throughout the issue, but for a lot of it, it is all very conventional. Bill Crabtree’s colors are stunning while keeping things safe along with the writing and illustrations. This entire issue is a fascinating mind trick of interesting, underlying meanings and average sci-fi comic. The palette used throughout, until the big twist begins to take effect, is pretty to look at, but falls in to the usual blues, purples, and blacks of cyberpunk art.
This first issue does a lot to mess with and intrigue the reader and with all that heavy lifting, its focus is on that as well as the world-building and character development. Its pace is quick while allowing for detours and moments to look around. It is easy reading, and while Kindt plays with that typical narrative idea, it is thankfully never a slog; even when you think it might be just another sci-fi thriller. It may cause you to be at war with yourself over how much you want or need to care about any of this, but it is just that concept that makes this introduction something that should be of interest to even the most educated or cynical sci-fi reader.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Subgenre” #1 is playing a few mind games with not only its protagonist, but the reader as well. A fascinating blend of satire, cyberpunk, and high fantasy that will keep you guessing as to whether or not it is all worth it while whispering to you that it is.