Crowded’s First Arc Succeeds In Balancing Bombast And Near-Nihilistic Realism

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

Charlie and Vita have been herded into Trotter’s trap, but Cam arrives to tell Trotter that his plan is stupid and going to get him arrested. Sure enough, the plan goes sideways, and Charlie and Vita are able to escape the elaborate deathtrap. Trotter decides to handle this more directly and has his people outfit him with armor and a massive machine gun. It’ll be up to Vita to bring down Trotter before he kills them.

Crowded #6 cover by Ro Stein
Crowded #6 cover by Ro Stein

Crowded #6 finishes this arc with Trotter in an expectedly bombastic fashion. We get to see the maniacal and convoluted plan Trotter intended to transpire and how Vita subverts it.

That’s only about the first half of the book though. The back half is the fallout of Trotter’s plan and how the survivors will move forward. We still don’t know why exactly Charlie had a bounty placed on her head, and this issue doesn’t actually reveal it. In fact, the mystery only gets deeper and a bit stranger.

If I were to use a comic to describe the concept of a “death drive,” Crowded would be it. While this comic could easily just be a nihilistic depiction of a social media-obsessed future plagued by contract work being the only form of employment (and it is, in part), it also focuses on the idea of a society accelerating its own descent because things are just so terrible. The fact that everyone thirsts for Charlie’s death whether or not they can collect the reward is a joke, but it’s also a disquietingly familiar depiction of people who just want to watch their decadent society absolutely burn. Trotter’s readiness to die himself reinforces this idea.

When I reviewed the first issue of this book for my previous outlet, I mentioned how the book really does feel like a very near future. My evaluation of this hasn’t changed; in fact, it strengthens the more I look at the current state of the job market–and since I discovered what “Bird Scooters” are. The social media aspect is a big part of it, but it’s not the driving force for the plot concept. The “Gig Economy” is; it’s what drives Charlie to have had numerous jobs before the contract, what drives Vita to be a bodyguard for hire, and it’s what drives the Reapr assassins to become attempted murderers. Now, I’m going to move on to the art before I start quoting Marx.

If there is drawback to the comic, it’s the constant bickering between Charlie and Vita over the first six issues as well as how wordy the book can get at times.

Crowded #6 art by Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, and letterer Cardinal Rae
Crowded #6 art by Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, and letterer Cardinal Rae

Ro Stein’s artwork is a wonderfully stylized balance that suits the bonkers yet real world of Crowded perfectly. Things are cartoonish, but they can also get very real at the drop of a hat. You watch insane things happen, and then they’re followed by a visual reminder of how terrible things can get. Also, I dug the crayon drawing of Trotter’s murder trap. Ted Brandt inks it all quite well, and Triona Farrell’s color work is the right level of off-beat and vibrant that Crowded needs.

Crowded #6 brings this particular arc to a close in an exciting fashion that only reminds you how slight a distortion of our world Christopher Sebela’s comic really is. It’s a brilliant satire of our world and where we may be headed, and it easily earns a recommendation. Give it a read.

Crowded #6 comes to us from writer Christopher Sebela, artist and cover artist Ro Stein, inker Ted Brandt, color artist Triona Farrell, letterer Cardinal Rae, and variant cover artist Naomi Franquis.

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