‘America, 1957. Elvis dominates the airwaves and apple pie is served after every meal. But, with the dark cloud of nuclear holocaust looming, Korean War vet Tim McClean’s major concern is taking care of his family in the atomic age.
When the first bomb does drop on an unexpecting Midwest city, Tim and his family find themselves plunged into a strange new world, where what’s left of the United States has gone underground while continuing to wage war on Russia with unthinkable tactics.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story Breakfast at Twilight, it is Cold War era science fiction at its most timely and terrifying.’
I wasn’t alive in the fifties, but I imagine life in the USA at the time looked exactly the way Tony Shasteen and JD Mettler present it in Nuclear Family #1. There’s a very grounded and believable aesthetic, between Shasteen’s near photo-real linework and Mettler’s muted palette.
Maybe muted isn’t the best word. Hazy? Like a half remembered dream. For the first half anyway. When the main character Tim gets off work and starts his drive home, the colors start to pop with beautiful sunset reds and yellows. Doesn’t seem like our man Tim is very happy with his daytime pursuits, and the colors reflect his emotional shift into his evening routines.
This is a beautiful book, and it’s really easy to get lost in the period correct details. The cars on Bob’s lot, Tim’s amateur radio setup in the basement, manicured lawns and box hedges, kitschy home decorations… All spot on.
This opening chapter works really well to set the framework for big things coming down the line. The one thing everyone knows is going to happen doesn’t happen until more than halfway through. Stephanie Phillips uses the first couple acts to introduce Tim and give us a good idea of what the dude stands for. As honest as a used car salesman can be, this guy is. He despises the snake oil tactics used by his coworkers, and is really trying to make an honest buck on an honest deal.
In just the few frames after he gets home, before the other thing kicks off, you can really tell he’s got a great relationship with his wife and children. This is the kind of guy you want to see succeed, for all the right reasons. The character work makes you genuinely concerned for the man and his family when things go south on the back end.
This is obviously a well worn trope, but it’s executed so well here, it doesn’t really matter. After this brilliant setup, that last pop promises this sucker’s going to get delightfully weird in the second chapter.
Nuclear Family #1, AfterShock Comics, 24 February 2021. Written by Stephanie Phillips, art by Tony Shasteen, color by JD Mettler, letters by Troy Peteri.
Cold War era sci-fi is obviously a well worn trope, but it’s executed so well here, it doesn’t really matter. After this brilliant setup, that final pop promises this sucker’s going to get delightfully weird in the second chapter.