In Review: The Normals #2

An overly familiar tale and visuals that do not work have me discontinuing this series. 

The cover: A graffiti covered subway car pulls out of a station. Within the window a reader can see the Normal family: parents Jack and Mary, and children Aidan and Josephine. They look at the people outside the car who’ve stopped and pointed at them like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A creepy cover from interior artist Dennis Calero. There’s a nice Easter egg in the image located on one of the pillars in the station. Overall grade: B

The story: Doctor Gordon has just told Jack that he and his family are robots. Jack doesn’t believe him, so to prove his point the doctor pushes the father off a cliff. This is where the first issue began, Jack at the bottom of the drop with a spider crawling over his face. Jack makes a wisecrack about his situation that seems out of character, given what’s happened, but the final bit of narration on the third page reveals that Jack is telling this tale, so the reader is following what occurred in the past. The doctor finally makes his way to the bottom of the cliff and restarts Jack by hitting a spot in his iris with a pencil. The next three pages have Jack disbelieving what Gordon is telling him. Their conversation is stopped by the arrival of several individuals on Page 8. The robot family is taken to a new setting where Gordon is about to do something to each family member until something surprising happens on 13. This causes an inner conflict in Gordon that is resolved after a new character, who appears to be the series’ antagonist, appears on 17. This character has some very strong dialogue, but the visual for the person diminishes the strength, turning the individual into a cliché. The ending is also pretty rote. This story has been told in several different ways, in science fiction and simple dramatic fiction. It could work, but I’m out. Two issues in and I’ve been down this road before, many, many times. There’s not enough of a twist to keep me involved. Now things could change at any point — I’m a big fan of writer Adam Glass’s Rough Riders series from AfterShock, but this just is not working for me. Overall grade: D

The art: Before I had finished reading this issue, the art by Dennis Calero had turned me off enough to stop purchasing this title. The first page demonstrates why. It’s a three panel page and in the first panel two characters are speaking with each other, and one of them has his face in darkness. This is an emotionally charged scene and both characters’ faces must be seen so the reader has an emotional buy in. The second panel has the scene shown from over a character’s shoulder, leaving one face completely hidden and the other more than half way obscured by the body in front of it. The large panel on the page, and justifiably so, has Gordon throwing Jack off the cliff. Both characters are in silhouette. This is the dramatic draw for new readers and payoff for those that read last issue. Gordon’s face can’t be seen. Is he pained in doing this action? Indifferent? Enjoying it? The visuals would help the reader understand more of the character in this inciting moment for the series, if he were seen. Instead, the reader is left hanging. Radio would be a better medium to tell this tale than comic book. The double-page splash that follows show Jack after the fall. He is very simplistically drawn, the cliff bottom a shape with a splattering of spots for texture, and a house that serves no purpose but to take up space. Panels that follow contain too much space, hinting that Calero doesn’t know where or how much dialogue is to be inserted in a panel, and characters’ faces are constantly obscured, destroying any chance of reader empathy. More examples could be provided to justify this position, but I don’t want to continue to be negative. Either a reader will enjoy these visuals or find them disappointing. Overall grade: F

The colors: What can a colorist do with visuals like these? Not much. Adriano Augusto makes up for the absence of character work on the first page by creating a blinding yellow and orange sky to try to make the characters pop. The next eight pages continue this blazing sky. Page 4 features three panels that contain close-ups of Jack’s eyes. These are often a time for an artist to show off their expertise and colorists to make them stunning. The art is so simplistic, the only way Augusto could have made them stand out would be to completely redraw the panels. The final setting of the book features an environment in several shades of green, which nicely symbolize technology, medicine, and the eerie unknown. Here Augusto gets to do more, with one character’s glasses getting some nice highlights. If he had been given more, I have no doubt Augusto could have done more. Overall grade: D

The letters: Corey Breen is responsible for the dialogue, yells, narration, story’s title, sounds, and the tease for next issue. I’ve nothing but praise for Breen’s work on this book. I’m especially pleased to see that the font used for narration is different from the one used for dialogue; they are different forms of communication, so they should be different fonts. Overall grade: A

The final line: An overly familiar tale and visuals that do not work have me discontinuing this series. I salute AfterShock for doing something that looks different, but this is not for me. Overall grade: D

To order a digital copy go to http://aftershockcomics.com/on-sale-june-2017/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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