What if everything you thought you knew was a lie? That’s the question posed in Aftershock’s latest new series. Read on for our review of “The Normals” #1, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Adam Glass
Illustrated by Dennis Calero
Colored by Adriano Augusto
Think about your “life” for a moment…the people you’ve known, the one’s you’ve loved, and all the stuff in between. Now imagine you learned that everything YOU believed, everything YOU lived, everything YOU felt actually never happened…it was ALL not real. But it is REAL to YOU and you now must fight to save it and everyone you love. But to do that, you first have to save the world. Welcome to “The Normals.” an exciting new rush-of-blood-to-the-head series and AfterShock Comics.
Created and written by Adam Glass (executive producer of Supernatural & writer of Suicide Squad) with art by Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir).
“The Normals” #1 begins a tale that promises to ask some lofty questions about the nature of humanity through the lens of a Twilight Zone style concept, so it’s unfortunate that it opens in a way that has recently become somewhat of an overused trope. Thanks to the “record scratch – freeze frame” meme attached to all manner of hilarious photos, it’s difficult to start a story with an ‘in media res’ situation and then flashback to the events that lead up to it without that comparison being made. Still, that trope has been used in a lot of television shows, from Breaking Bad to Robot Chicken, and seeing as writer Adam Glass has a lot of experience as a TV writer it makes sense that this style would be adopted. It’s also not something that is a detriment to the story, despite its frequent use in current pop culture.
The pacing and structure of “The Normals” #1 is, in fact, reminiscent of a television show throughout the issue. The focus on a family (we find out in a single line of dialogue that ‘Normal’ is, in fact, the family name) that seem in every way to be fairly mundane and well, normal and the conversation is natural and relatable. It’s a testament to Glass’s writing that he manages to portray such a naturalistic approach to the characters and their interactions; establishing the norm in such a way as he does really accentuate the drastic change that’s to come. Similarly, the pacing during the first half of the issue is relaxed and the structure of the panels, even down to the scene layouts, feels like an adaptation to the small screen would only be a single step away. The design of the characters themselves takes a very realistic, almost photo-realistic approach; the main character – the father of the family – has an air of Damian Lewis about him in some scenes. This approach is always a tricky tightrope in comics but, aside from one or two awkwardly staged panels, the body language is pretty solid throughout and the characters emote as much as required.
The pacing of the second half of “The Normals” #1 takes a swift and surprisingly fast turn. There’s a moment in the book where the relaxed norm is broken – the inciting incident – and from there the book hurtles along through to the final page cliffhanger that lays it all out there. Around two-thirds of the way through the issue a tertiary character is confronted with the truth and, surprisingly, explains everything. Sure, there are bound to be twists and reveals further down the line, but it’s somewhat refreshing to have the central conceit of the series laid bare so early on. It’s clear that Glass is setting up a status quo moving forward that still isn’t fully revealed in this first issue, yet by lifting the curtain early on like this, it gives the feeling that there is much more to this book than meets the eye.
There are a couple of pages throughout the issue that stand out as artistically fascinating, but the strongest is perhaps the page that’s split into four widescreen panels, each depicting the eye of main character Jack. Through the reflection of his pupil, we witness the moment their world starts to unravel. The color palate shifts from a blue eye surrounded by natural caucasian skin tone, to unnatural orange and purple as panic sets in and slows down time. The final panel, although a visual continuation of the extreme close-up of an eye, is a total flip, as we discover it’s the eye of Jack’s son looking up at his father. This very literally puts us into the head of our protagonist, and his feelings and fears become ours as his view becomes ours. It’s this intense relatability, this need to draw us into their world that only serves to pay off with the cliffhanger.Continued below
The rest of the book maintains a fairly standard adherence to its panel structure, only breaking into full page spreads a couple of times when the drama of the scene reaches its peak. The structure of “The Normals” #1 is especially strong, each scene building on the last and speeding up the pace until the valve is released with the bombshell final page. The subject matter is classic Twilight Zone stuff, except the setup moving forward feels like it’ll be exploring what feels like a familiar story from an unfamiliar angle. This is a really fun series and it’ll be interesting to see if it can keep up the pace moving forward. If each issue is as full of twists as this one, then there’s no telling where “The Normals” is heading.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – “The Normals” is anything but. A fun sci-fi concept excellently paced and leaving you wanting more.