In Review: The Normals #1

Takes a while to get going, but the premise is interesting.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Juan Doe (whose work on World Reader, also from AfterShock, you really should be checking out). Like four mini wanted posters, the Normal (Yes, that’s their last name) family looks at the reader as if they’re inhuman. Parents Jack and Mary are at the top, with daughter Josephine and son Aidan at the bottom. A stark looking cover, with the word NORMAL? spray painted over them. This sets the tone of the book nicely. A good idea with an excellent layout, but the art is too stark for me. The Variant cover by Elizabeth Torque is more to my liking. The reflection of the happy Normal family and their dog is shown in the water. Behind them there looks to be a mushroom cloud from a nuclear bomb. There are dead animals in the water, some fish and birds floating about their smiling visages. The family are in complete opposition to the dead animals. The colors on this are also pretty sweet. Overall grades: Regular C+ and Variant A 

The story: Jack Normal’s narration states he’s in “the bottom of this ravine, choking on my own blood and about to become spider lunch.” He’s on his side, his face bloodied, and he looks as if he’s inside of coffin. He tells the reader “It all started 48 hours ago…” Alexandria, Virgina. Jack is driving home from work, listening to a song by the Talking Heads when he gets a call. It’s his wife asking if he picked up the burgers and buns on the way home. Before they end their call, Jack asks, “…you sure Aidan is okay? I’m worried about him. He’s the same exact height and weight he was two years ago.” His wife says their son is fine. Once home, retired neighbor Alan comes over, with Jack giving him one of the beers he’s also picked up. The elderly man asks if he can tell his wife he was home all week, since she thinks he’s cheating on her. Jack states he’s not comfortable with this, allowing Alan to leave huffily. Daughter Josephine then comes out to take Jack’s car to go over to her friend Neo’s house to spend the night. He’s not thrilled, but he lets her go. Inside, Jack is greeted by the dog and then sees his wife. This seems like a normal life for the Normals, but something happens outside while Jack is grilling. Page 8 is the turning point of the issue, where Jack begins to have suspicions. His wife isn’t sure about what he’s seen, but when he’s proven true they decide to go somewhere. This road trip becomes a trip to the past, with more questions resulting than answers. Adam Glass takes a while to get things going, but the last four pages introduce a character that sets the story fully in motion. It’s not much of surprise, given what occurs on 8, but now that the premise is revealed, I’m willing to go another issue to see what Glass has planned. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Glass’s other AfterShock series Rough Riders and Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm, so he’s earned more than enough cred for me to continue. This issue is setting up the story and it’s sufficient. Overall grade: B+

The art: I’m not liking the art on this book. The layout of each page and panel by Dennis Calero is fine, but the final visual doesn’t work. The opening page is a full paged splash and it looks good. It’s a shocking introduction to the main character, with only his head and a bit of his hand showing. He’s got blood on his face and there is, indeed, a spider crawling close to him. Space has been provided for the lettering to drop lower with each proclamation. It’s a nice set up and it’s dramatic. The second page shows where things begin to go awry. The character in the first panel is not the same character in the second, nor is either one the same one in the fourth panel. Jack looks like Jimmy Stewart in the first panel, then his profile in the second has his forehead lessen, resembling David Duchovny, while in the fourth panel the forehead has returned, but the character’s face is bulkier. This is inconsistent. When Jack gets home to talk with Alan, look at his hands and the beer cans: it’s really loose artwork. Also his hair is disheveled in the opening panel, but it’s as neat as a pin in the following panel. The backgrounds in the panels are really minimal. Joesphine is really simplistic in her first appearance, while Jack again goes though a facial metamorphosis. The interiors of the Normals’ home are very basic and often unfinished, with the colorist completing linework. The layout on 7 is perfect — cinematic, but the central image is not detailed enough to provide the greatest impact. The reveal on 8 is really diminished because too much of the illustration is black. If the older person’s face had been completely seen and the image pulled in closer to show the surprise, the reveal would have been much better. This is the true beginning of the series and it looks hastily rendered. There are more examples of this to be found throughout the book, producing the same comments. This book could have had a better impact had the visuals been stronger. Overall grade: D  

The colors: Due to the visuals being so simplistic or unfinished, Adriano Augusto is really going the distance to try to complete or enhance the visuals. The first page, the best drawn of the issue, has some excellent coloring, with the browns on and around Jack suggesting he’s been buried, while the splotches of red on his face suggest some intense violence. The next page is in contrast with some good, bright colors as Jack drives home, but the light on his face is all over the place. This is not because of what Augusto is doing, but because of what he’s been given to color. He has to resort to light flares from the rear view mirror to spice up the colors. The exterior of the Normals’ home has it in very basic, blocky colors; every time it’s shown on Page 3 it’s really distracting. Josephine’s close-up on 4 has her looking almost sunburned. Jack’s close-up on 6 is awful with the shade on his face making no sense. The colors on 7, however, are stellar. They would have been better had the art been stronger. Sadly, the remainder of the book has rough colors, due to the art. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Narration, the story’s title, scene settings, a song and a unique phone ring (both the same font), dialogue, a phone transmission, sounds, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by Corey Breen. I’m liking what he’s doing, with the song and phone ring being very cool. Particular focus should also be given to the dog’s utterances, as they resemble what a dog’s speech should be. Overall grade: A

The final line: Takes a while to get going, but the premise is interesting. The visuals really hurt the book, though. I’m in for at least one more, but I need the visuals to improve. Overall grade: C

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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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