An App For Everything, Including Contract Killing, In Crowded #1

by Brendan M. Allen

Series Premiere: Ten minutes in the future, the world runs on an economy of job shares and apps, including Reapr: a crowdfunding platform to fund assassinations. Charlie Ellison leads a quiet, normal life until she’s suddenly targeted by a million-dollar Reapr campaign. Hunted by all of Los Angeles, Charlie hires Vita, the lowest-rated bodyguard on the Dfend app. As the campaign picks up speed, they’ll have to figure out who wants Charlie dead before the campaign’s 30 days—or their lives—are over. From Eisner-nominated writer Christopher Sebela (Heartthrob, We(l)come Back, Harley Quinn), Ro Stein & Ted Brandt (Captain Marvel, Raven: The Pirate Princess), Triona Farrell (Runaways, Mech Cadet Yu), and Cardinal Rae (Bingo Love, Rose).

Crowded #1 doesn’t hit the ground running. It hits the ground killing. The creative team barely gives us seven panels before splattering some poor schmuck’s guts all over the wall. Don’t worry, though. He probably deserved it. Probably. It’s kind of hard to tell, since this is one of those stories where it isn’t immediately apparent who you’re supposed to be rooting for. Everyone’s lying at least a little, and there aren’t any obvious heel and face labels to assign with the information we’re given. I sincerely hope that ambiguity carries through the entire series.

The premise is beautifully simple. There are apps for everything now. Some of the services in this first chapter seem pretty silly, until you realize that every single one of the services Charlie provides to make an extra buck is based on an honest-to-god real life smartphone app that currently exists. Why wouldn’t contract killing get its own crowdfunding platform? It’s beautiful, really. If this isn’t already a reality, why not?

Christopher Sebela does a fantastic job telling pieces of the story, without spilling too much about what’s actually going on. There’s an underlying darkness that each of these principals are trying to hide from the other. Exposition comes from personal retelling of past events, and the bias is obvious when each character is telling their story. Neither is admitting any fault for their current situations.

On the artwork side of things, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell present a surprisingly cool and airy look for such dark material. Stein sets the whole thing up with brilliant angles and innovative spreads. That Castle Grayskull playset cross section? I’ve never seen anything like that. Dead brilliant.

Crowded is really dark and extremely funny. It’s a slick commentary on where we are as a society and a sly little piece of satire, taking a good hard poke at the tech that drives our daily interactions.

Crowded #1, published by Image Comics, released on the 15th of August 2018. Written/designed by Christopher Sebela, pencils by Ro Stein, inks by Ted Brandt, colours by Triona Farrell, letters by Cardinal Rae, logo by Dylan Todd, variant cover available by Rachael Stott.

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