In Review: Relay #1

Get yourself a copy of this book and fall into a stunning future. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Three different covers for this phenomenal first issue. The A is by Andy Clarke with Dan Brown and features the monolith, the Relay, that overshadows the city and informs convictions and controls society. Within its surface is the face of the elusive Hank Donaldson. A terrific ominous image that has shades of Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey combined with 1984. The B cover by Christian Ward has a full figured Donaldson moving his hands as though conjuring a dove out of the ether. He’s surrounded by gray and blue silhouettes of the birds. Below the bird he’s produced is the Relay and within it is the while silhouette of a falling figure. An orange backdrop flecked with drops of blood and the yellow lights of the city finishes the picture. This image seemed more trippy than the A cover, so I picked this version up. There’s also a Black and White Virgin Variant that features the artwork of the A cover but doesn’t use Brown’s contributions. It’s really good, but I prefer it colored. Overall grades: A A, B A+, and Black and White Virgin Variant B+

The story: This is the most original read I’ve encountered in some time. Zac Thompson is the writer with the story conceived by Eric Bromberg, Donny Cates, & Thompson. In the future society is controlled by the mysterious monolith, the Relay. It has brought peace to Earth by controlling society by “removing our criterion to evaluate the importance of things and focus on building outward.” The Relay has created a completely singularity of vision and understanding for the world. Life is done as the Relay says. Should other beings be encountered in space their society is absorbed into that of the Relay or are destroyed. No one knows where the Relay came from, only that it was brought to Earth by Hank Donaldson. The Relay demands that Donaldson’s World be found, but it hasn’t been yet discovered. The story follows two officers of the Relay, Jad Carter and William Burns. Jad is a follower of the Relay, espousing its directives like those that faithfully follow religion. William is not a devout follower, but does what the Relay tells him. The first half of the book deals with the men dealing with the fringe elements, the free thinkers of society. The second half has the pair joined by Victoria Burgess who is more aligned to Burns’s beliefs, but journeys with them to a destination that could lead to the truth about the Relay’s Donaldson. This was a dense world that I completely fell into. The way society is explained is amazing, with one true believer discounting what his co-workers say with a righteousness that borders on religious fervor. I cannot wait to read more of this series! Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals are what initially got me to pick up this book. I love detailed books, let alone detailed science fiction books, and this comic is stunning on every page. On the first page artist Andy Clarke has Jad engage a criminal in a taxi and get thrown from the flying vehicle. Look at the detail used in each panel to establish the reality of this future: the robot driver (anyone else see Robert Picardo in the design?), Jad’s gun, and the vehicles that are flying about in the background. Pages 2 and 3 are a double-paged spread that’s meant to be read vertically. It introduces the Relay to the reader and it’s massive. It towers over a busy city and overwhelms the vehicles of all shapes and sizes that fly about. Four inserted panels show Jad’s fall, with salvation revealed in the final panel as William appears on a flying cycle. Page 4 is comprised of nine equal sized panels and the details continue to be stellar: the design of the bike, the number of people, and the agents themselves. The street scene that leads to a graffiti artist is amazing and the illegal work on the wall is beautiful. One individual on Page 8 stops Jad in pursuit of a criminal and I’m dying to know what that silent gaze meant. A different criminal uses a sonic device to create chaos and the panel layouts become jumbled and skewed to make the disruption upon society more vivid. The vehicle the agents board is amazing; it’s akin to the luxury cruiser from The Fifth Element, but even more lush. The final two pages are a double-paged spread that reveals the setting for the next issue. Clarke is a stunning artist. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Due to the amazing amount of details in the artwork, it falls upon Jose Villarrubia with Dan Brown to use colors to ensure the reader looks at the key elements of each panel. The dark orange sky of the first page increases the tension of Jad’s plight and has the items such as the taxi, Jad, his gun, and his falling body stand out. The ebony coloring of the Relay on 2 and 3 is awesome. The sun’s rays are gorgeously protruding over part of the monolith. When the pair chase a criminal, colors allow the reader to follow the man, as well as create a pale woman that stops Jad momentarily. The yellows used for a sound enhance the power of the illegal device. An x-ray sequence eerily uses green and some old papers in Jad’s possession are wonderfully aged with bronze. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Charles Pritchett creates this issue’s dialogue, narration, Relay’s edict, signage, transmissions, sounds, yells, text in a book, and the tease for next issue. The dialogue and narration are rightly in two different fonts, which shows Pritchett’s expertise. The Relay’s edict is in a font so strong it seems to blast off the page. The sounds in this book are great, with the sonic weapon having one that literally rings off the page. I also liked that the text in Jad’s book has its own unique font, looking like actual book text. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Get yourself a copy of this book and fall into a stunning future. The story is incredible, the characters riveting, and the visuals extraordinary. This is a MUST BUY book! Highest possible recommendation. And remember, FIND DONALDSON’S WORLD. Overall grade: A+

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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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