In Review: Centipede #1

The story is building too slowly, but the visuals are engaging in this premiere issue.

The covers: A big nine covers coming at you, so you better be fast enough to get them before they get you. Cover A is by Francesco Francavilla and features protagonist Dale Trell confronting the title creature of this series. The monstrous centipede looks down upon the tiny human with disdain, a cloud of dust marking its rupture from the ground. Solid image with the coloring increasing the tension by placing the man and his immediate surroundings in red. Nice. The B Variant hails from Eoin Marron & Jordie Bellaire and teases the terror that’s plaguing the city. Again, tiny Dale is in the foreground, his back to the reader, gazing at the destruction before him, with the centipede glimpsed moving between buildings. There are also some glowing nodules littering the ground that come in the creature’s wake. Good, though the centipede blends in the with buildings, making it somewhat difficult to see. A cartoonish image makes up the C by Dan Schkade & Ivan Nunes. An elvish looking lad wearing a red jumpsuit hangs from a tree, aiming a glowing twig at a grinning centipede that arches up to reach him. Spiders are climbing up the tree the boy is on, as well as swinging at him. This is cute and the colors make this pleasing. Nicely captures the fun of the 80s game. Truly capturing the feel of the game is the  D cover which is the Classic Game Art Variant. This illustration resembles the box art from the classic Atari cartridge, with the credits neatly inserted. The illustration contains the same elements as the C cover but are thematically toned down. Really cool. If one is a fan of the A cover than the E will also be to your liking. It’s a Francesco Francavilla Virgin Variant, which is a textless cover. Without the text this comes across as more powerful. The same holds true if one enjoyed the B, since the F Incentive is an Eoin Marron Black and White Variant. This lacks Bellaire’s contributions to the cover and is neat, though I prefer it with the colors. The lime green title and stripe along the right remain. Following suit is the G Incentive which features the art from the C by Dan Schkade and is a Black and White Variant. This is still cute, but is not as powerful without the colors. This, too, has the lime title at the top and the stripe along the left side. Eoin Marron has a Virgin Variant for the H Incentive, which is the B cover, with colors, but without text. Decent. The final cover is the I Blank Authentix Variant which is one to get. It is set up like an Atari 2600 cartridge box, with the illustration a white space, so that an artist may create an original cover or the contributors to this issue may sign there. Really, really cool. Overall grades: A A-, B B, C A, D A, E A, F B-, G B-, H B, and I A 

The story: The only character in this story, Dale Trell, speaks into the radio, aware that there’s no one on the other end. “You’re going to be my imaginary friend, because I need one. Hell, I deserve one. Also everyone else on my planet is dead. You’re all I’ve got.” This is a good way for writer Max Bemis to tell this tale of the sole survivor of an apocalypse. Dale tells his imaginary friend that his job used to be stealing/harvesting information from distant planetary systems. “One of those far-off worlds is called Earth. I’m a fan of their ‘pulp fiction.’ One brand springs to mind. That of a gigantic, malformed beast invading the planet and laying waste to civilization, eating people, blowing up buildings with fireballs.” This creature has come to Sty-rek and only Dale has been left alive. He goes on to tell his friend that today, the twenty-eighth day since the apocalypse, he will have his revenge. He takes a massive futuristic looking rifle from a rack, grins, and looking in a mirror says, “I ain’t afraid of no centipede!” The story then follows Dale as he makes his way to find the creature, speaking into his radio to tell his friend what he’s doing and where he’s going. He encounters elements of the game, mushrooms and spiders, but where they come from and what they do aren’t revealed. The present is interrupted by a flashback which shows how Dale wasn’t a normal person on his world. This backstory is okay, but I’m paying for the centipede, not for Dale Trell. On the final page the centipede appears, echoing Francavilla’s cover. The issue has slowly built to this reveal, and I’m expecting a big payoff in the next installment. I’m interested in this story, but not wowed by it. Pages 15 – 18 could be deleted and nothing lost from this tale. Overall grade: C+

The art: Artist Eoin Marron is a good artist for this issue as his style resembles that of a comic from the 1980s. He’s able to endow Dale with a cartoonish quality, yet make him very serious quickly. For example, on the first page the second panel has a close-up of Dale’s glasses as he looks out a window. It’s a good illustration, but the third panel changes things subtly as he brings up how he’s the last survivor on his world and his pupils no longer can be seen in his glasses, showing that he is as dead as his world. Very nice. The penultimate panel on the page features a close-up of him wringing his hands; this accentuates the frustration he’s feeling as he describes his world’s destruction. Pages 2 and 3 are a double-page splash showing the damage done, looking down upon his compound and the nearby city. The construction of the city looks like art from a Judge Dredd story, with the title of this tale neatly made out in the wreckage of some buildings. I really like these two pages, with the thin line work of the city really cool. The creatures that attack him also have very thin lines and they are great. The creatures’ look are transporting me back to early 2000 AD issues. The longer Dale is on the hunt, the more dense his beard becomes, making him much more maniacal. Once in the city, Marron really explodes, creating a fully realized city that has me believing that he knows what’s around every corner and within every shop. The last page introduces the monster and it’s much more fierce looking than I expected. This issue has Marron establishing Dale and the city, with teases of the invasion, so my hopes are high that he gets to have much more of the creatures next issue. Overall grade: A-

The colors: Chris O’Halloran’s colors really highlight and expand the tone of this comic. With the close-ups on Page 1, O’Halloran’s hands are tied with coloring Dale’s skin and glasses. The reveal of 2 and 3 has him showing the devastation of the planet with rusty oranges and silver and grays for the city. When Dale begins to move around, O’Halloran expands his palette using some cool blues at the start of 4 to show some depth, and ending with some neat paling of colors to show the man’s reflection in the mirror. Once outside, Dale’s glasses get highlighted in blue, grabbing the reader’s focus each time they’re shown. Page 7 is a full page splash outside the city and introduces the mushrooms and fungal growth. These items have bright, luminescent colors that resemble that of the classic game and visually show the reader that all is not right with the world. The spider attack that starts on 9 has the colors going stark with yellows, increasing the intensity of the action and providing a great background color for the blue blood of the arachnids. The flashback sequences use very pale colors to age them, which is an effect I’ve not seen before but enjoyed considerably. I’m looking forward to seeing what O’Halloran does in future issues. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, day markers, yells, and sounds are created by Taylor Esposito. There’s a constant stream of dialogue from Dale when he’s not fighting, and my hat’s off to Esposito for placing it in every panel. Take at look at all that Esposito has to place on the first page, and he does so without covering important elements of the art. The day markers identify how long Dale has been at his task and they’re done in a font that resembles that of an 80’s videogame — it always created a nostalgic feel. The yells and sounds in this book are delightful, being manic, explosive, and gross. They really do look like the sounds that they’re supposed to be creating, enhancing the art provided by Marron. I especially like the ones used in the spider attack. Overall grade: A

The final line: The story is building too slowly, but the visuals are engaging in this premiere issue. An unnecessary flashback interrupts the proceedings and it takes a while to get some insect action, though I’m liking the visuals, which remind me of a comic from the early 1980s. I’ll be back for the second issue, but I’ve got to get some more bug action. Overall grade: B+

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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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