COMIC REVIEW: Evolution #1

The 80s are very now, thanks to the likes of Netflix’s Stranger Things and the recent cinematic It. The cover of Image Comic’s latest offering looks very of the moment. In other words, very retro. Evolution looks very intriguing, with odd lettering and a quiet disturbing depiction of an upside down head on the cover. The list of contributors is of interest too. Indeed, it is revealed to have 4 writers, an artist and a colourist. Truly collaborative.

Human evolution has taken millions of years to get to this stage. But next week, we become something new. Around the world, humanity is undergoing rapid and unpredictable changes, and only three individuals seem to notice that their world is being reborn. But what can they do about it?

The writers involved in Evolution are James Asmus (Thief of Thieves, Gambit), Joseph Keatinge (Glory, Shutter), Christopher Sebela (Injustice) and Joshua Williamson (Nailbiter, Preditor). That’s quite some talent. And more to come…The art is by Joe Infurnari (The Bunker) and Jordan Boyd (Invisible Republic). So just what can they come up with? What can be original about the next steps of human evolution?

We begin with Dr Hurley acting all suspicious in a hospital and examining a boy who apparently has gill-like wounds. So far so expected. Now we’re in Roma and within a church someone is crying out in German. There’s something not quite right with his arm. He has a gun… Back in the US a young movie buff is dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy. Clearing out a house, she finds a film reel and contacts someone who is looking for the film. The comic then alternates between these three stories as a number of mutations and horrors start affecting out protagonists. So evolution is happening to the human race almost overnight and not necessarily by Darwin’s concept of natural selection. Why would a boy need gills?

The story telling from the quadrumvirate is intriguing and enigmatic. While we’re deliberately kept in the dark in many senses – including the artwork which is shadowy and scratchy – the characters are immediately engaging. I wonder if the writers wrote the different story strands, or collaborated on the whole. While the initial mutation is a bit of a cliché, Hurley’s behaviour is surprising. The nun in the Roman church has no idea about what is happening. Claire is our movie fan and she believes films are the most important thing in the world. Nice.

Now to the art. As often is the case with Image, Infurnari draws in an unexpected yet appropriate style. Shading is scratchy and the horror is all messy and Cronenbergian. While the panelling is fairly standard there is plenty of space for the story to unfold slowly and viscerally. There are some interesting perspectives: half a face here, a shadow there. Boyd’s colours are often muted and very dark at others. Most pages have the same colour tones, tints and temperatures, reflecting moments in the story. It looks very appealing although far from beautiful. But that is the intent I’m sure.

I’m not 100% convinced that the 80s look of the cover is anything other than zeitgeist-affected marketing. The rest of the book is less retro in feel. I suppose you could arguing that the colouring is washed out and retro, but not the bright neon of the cover…But while the cover doesn’t add anything, it doesn’t really detract either. Or maybe something down the line will tie in to it.

The final page of this comic book has the header “Horror. Evolved.” I wouldn’t go that far, but there are some moments of dark horror and some interesting ideas that wash away any thoughts of ‘seen this all before’. So why does a boy need gills? In the last few pages of issue 1 of Evolution we learn that humanity is anticipating future environmental changes. What could be the result of these changes? I’m already looking forward to issue 2 and more revelations, evolutions and mutations.

Title: Evolution #1

Publisher: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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