A Beautifully Designed Sci-fi Utopia With A Dark Heart Beneath: Dissonance #1 From Glitch/Image

by Oliver MacNamee

Dissonance #1 is one Hell of a great looking comic. From the front cover layout to the elegant and eye-catching character designs courtesy of designer Melita Curphy that are then taken up and executed by Sami Basri beautifully on each page of this debut issue, this book is a masterclass in collaboration. And all from a script by Ryan Cady and Singgih Nugroho.

This is a version of Earth in which we have had contact with an alien race, the Fantasme, who have, in turn, bonded and fused their spirits onto human physiognomy with two results. Either a full on ‘full-synch’ or a less manifest symbiosis, known as ‘half-synchs’. Needless to say, this has played havoc with the hierarchical social structures and statuses we are all so familiar with. It would seem that the 1%ers on this alternative Earth are those fortunate enough to be bonded with our new alien overlords.

Of course, these aliens also brought with them technological advancements that have helped improve society. But if you think this sounds too good to be true, of course it is! The very reason these spirit forms came here in the first place was because of their preoccupation with never ending-war that tore their home planet apart. Doesn’t sound great does it?  Especially when the murder of one full synch–a fashion designer very publicly gunned down at his very own catwalk show–is revealed to be a back-ops plan orchestrated by these new landlords of Earth.

A group of half-synchs and full synchs in cahoots with an all-human brother and sister team, Folke and Roisia Herviett, are determined to create a consistent state of fear and anxiety amongst the general populace. That’s the first thing would-be shadowy dictators learn in Propaganda 101, surely? State-funded terror that will go towards the sustainability of a friendly fascist state? These siblings may look like human perfection personified, but it would seem this is merely skin-deep and both, over the course of this first issue, start to show their true colours. All this and the growing uneasiness of Earthers fearful of these interlopers mixes together well enough to create a sense of foreboding over an otherwise seemingly idyllic society. Keep us placated with the latest technological gadgets and we won’t even notice we’ve been had until it’s too late. It’s like They Live! but without the cheese.

And, if that wasn’t enough plot to stuff into a first issue–and effortlessly I may add–enter two Fantasmes yet to bond with a physical body looking for an escapee! Gulp. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Needless to say, this is a series that’s been carefully planned, plotted and executed and on top of a great deal of story in this promising first issue, comes the artwork. If any book is emphasising the artists’ input into the creative process, it’s surely this one. That’s not to take from the writers, Nugroho and Cady, but here we have a world that has truly been thought through and designed from the ground up, collaboratively too. One only needs to glance at Melita Curphy’s website to see that her particular style of artistry is at the heart of this comic, informing the design of the Fantasme and giving the reader a cast of exotically beautiful and sometimes grotesque characters.

That isn’t surprising given that this is an Image comic in partnership with Glitch, an online urban-arts that originated in Jakarta. One look at its on-trend designers and designs (anything from t-shirts to vinyl figures and more) and you can see not only the influence of Murphy’s design work upon this book, but you may start connecting the very striking cover designs to another one of their collaborations with Image, God Complex. This is shaping up to be a great partnership with a very distinctive design to their book,s which favour bold full figures and subtle trade dressing. Especially as they can merchandise these characters they are creating and telling stories with online as very cool looking collectable figures. Or, toys as I call ’em. This is some high class He-Man synergy going on here, with a Dissonace figurine already available!

Sami Basri’s light lined, deft art is a great fit with the other art styles in these Glitch/Image books, giving this a soft Manga-like look that fits wonderfully with the story being told and it is Basri, I dare say, that adds substance to the book; giving us a utopian futurescape you wished you could live in. This is a comic that strikes the right balance between a promising story complimented by great art.

Frankly, I like a comic that I feel has given me good value for money, art wise and plot wise with enough intrigue and character development. This week, this is that comic! Alien overlords hiding in plain sight, with human agents who seem even worse than these Fantasme in one case in particular. Sounds like Scientology!

It’s a beautifully designed sci-fi utopia with a dark heart beneath and a great example of a winning partnership between Glitch and Image Comics. And out this week!