Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.
New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Not always. Sometimes. Okay. Twice. It happened twice.
This week, Brendan is introducing Tony to Dark Horse Comics’ Gregory Suicide, by Eric Grissom and William Perkins. Here’s what Dark Horse says about the book:
‘The obsolete AI program Gregory wakes in a newly cloned body to a world now unfamiliar to him and is haunted by the memories of his past lives, each one ending in death by his own hand. On the path to discovering the truth about himself, Gregory slips into the trenches of two opposing forces that want to exploit him. In the end, he must take down an AI revolution before it wipes out humanity, and the key to doing so may only lie in the strange visions he has between life and death.’
Brendan Allen: I know this one breaks from my typical fare, but when Gregory Suicide found its way into my review queue back in 2017, it made an impact. Eric Grissom explores several issues inherent to the ongoing AI discussion, and also throws in some interesting points about connectivity, social media, and Big Brother.
So where do you land on this, Tone? Hive-minded sentient cybernetic servants with guns. Yea or nay?
Tony Thornley: I enjoyed this one, but I did have a few issues with it. I think this is a good example of how the original graphic novel format could really benefit the American comic market. The opening chapters weren’t the story’s strongest, but holy cow, the back half of it was so very good. The format really works to its benefit here. Being an OGN did mean that the chapters weren’t beholden to the 22 pages standard either.
But if you like Isaac Asimov? This feels very much like a spiritual successor.
Brendan: That’s the three laws thing? I’m not too well versed on Asimov, but I know that Grissom touches on points that have been previously addressed by the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and throws up elements of The Matrix, Enemy of the State, and The Conversation.
Tony: Yeah, it’s a little bit cyberpunk too. The story is very fun, it gets into some AI ethics, and some very “paranoia thriller” territory. One thing I really like- Gregory isn’t a terminator here. Grissom avoids the killer robot trope. He’s an assassin who gets decommissioned and wakes up 30 years later, but he’s not an efficient, unstoppable killing machine.
Brendan: Eh… Gregory dabbles. There are a couple spots where we flash back to the stuff he was into prior to the long sleep. He seemed pretty damned efficient. He just got beat to the punch once by the newer models.
Art and color by William Perkins are fantastic. The linework is simple, clean and neat. Perkins utilizes mostly monochromatic palettes with flashes of an off color here and there for emphasis.
Tony: I like the line art a lot. Perkins has a very similar style to Jeff Lemire or Matt Kindt. It’s very expressive and cartoony, which shows us that Gregory isn’t the standard emotionless android. He feels very human, and very vulnerable, which Perkins conveys extremely well.
I’m not the biggest fan of the monochrome though. I didn’t mind the blue, with spot reds and pinks. It really makes the violence of the last third of the book pop off the page. But the flashbacks use different colors (yellowish-orange for some, reddish for others), and it’s a move that doesn’t quite do what it’s going for. The line art and the script convey the time shift really well, so a yellow monochrome palette on top of it, felt a little unnecessary.
Brendan: I actually thought the cool palette for the current timeline and warm palette for flashbacks worked pretty well as a chronological indicator. I mean, the main character doesn’t age, doesn’t change hairstyle, or anything. There had to be something to show the difference between past and present, especially when the timeline flopped back and forth quickly in the same sequence.
Tony: I get where you’re coming from, but it didn’t quite work for me. Maybe if it had been a different color- something more cool- it would have worked better. I’m not sure.
Brendan: They did a similar thing in Dead Eyes (fka Dead Rabbit), where the current timeline was colored, and the flashback sequences almost had a trash polka palette, black and grayscale with red splashes. That also worked. Maybe more to your taste. Speaking of, I should pop that one in queue.
Tony: Generally though, I like what Perkins did. The layouts are strong and drive a great pace. The designs are very near future, which makes it very relatable. The spot coloring is fantastic… His figure work does hit one or two rough spots, but he quickly gets past it. It’s a very strong debut.
Really, after reading this, I’m disappointed that I hadn’t heard of the creators before. Grissom and Perkins really should be rising stars in the industry. Sure, there’s some pacing issues in the front half and we just talked about the colors, but overall, it’s a strong mainstream debut that should have made a bigger splash than it did.
Brendan: I absolutely agree this book should have gotten way more attention than it did. It works so well on so many levels, and it’s one of those stories that really keeps you guessing until the very last pop.
What’s up next on your queue?
Tony: We’re going to stay on the AI theme, AND we’re going to look at a book that has clearly inspired Marvel Studios’ upcoming Wandavision, Tom King & Gabriel Walta’s The Vision Volume 1.
Gregory Suicide, Dark Horse Books, 06 December 2017. Story, post process color, and letters by Eric Grissom, art, color, and cover by William Perkins.