COMIC REVIEW: Negative Space #4

The front cover of the concluding issue of Gieni and Lindsay’s Negative Space says an awful lot about this comic book, but doesn’t say everything. A heavily muscled torso with a t-shirt emblazoned with the single word ‘end’ is holding a gun, pointed at the space where a head should probably be. Surrounding the space is some splattered pink goo and what appear to be small squid-like creatures. Moving on then…Page 1 is a full page panel of a horrendous giant version of said creatures, with enormous teeth, coming right at you.

THE WEIRDEST COMIC YOU’VE EVER READ!

Guy enters the belly of the evil corporate beast, dead set on preventing Kindred Corp. from waging full-scale emotional warfare. Now, beset on all sides by enemies, Guy must employ his newfound depressive powers to curb the grim menace once and for all!

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We join the story in scenes of mayhem, but the backstory that brought us here makes so much sense. Guy is an empathic writer who has found a purpose after failing to find relief in suicide. The evorah – the gruesome pink squid monster things – are an ancient race that discover a new species called humans. They feed off the worst and the negative parts of us. Kindred is, on the surface, a multinational company. Beneath, they facilitate misery and despair, keeping the evorah fed. They claim responsibility for Kurt Cobain to abandoned babies to cruel viral videos. Guy has teamed up with the one evorah (Beta) that prefers happiness over misery. They set off a happiness bomb destroying most of the evorah and are now gunning for Kindred. But are Kindred evil? If people are inherently sad or cruel, shouldn’t they profit? They aren’t doing anything wrong. Are they?

So issue #4 brings about the conclusion of this little tale into the darkest – but also the brightest – side of humanity. Exploitation of emotion, when those feelings are always going to exist. Guy and Beta’s actions have brought the remaining evorah onto the streets looking for revenge. Sure, they are hideous creatures committing unthinkable atrocities, but who is to blame for their behaviour? Guy, who thinks the world is “unpredictably shit”, might be humanitiy’s only hope after all.

This is brave storytelling by Ryan K Lindsay (Headspace, CMYK). To go this bleak in a comic book about sadness, loneliness, the father-son relationship, evil corporations and what ‘monster’ means, is a big risk. I think Lindsay nails it. Yes, it is as bleak as the deserts of Tatooine but there is (some) hope. There is sentiment without mawkishness. There is wit in the dialogue and interesting characters that turn out to be a little different than expected, especially the spokesperson for Kindred. But it is the art that is the real star and makes this comic something better than just good. Owen Gieni (Manifest Destiny, Shutter) draws the characters – both human and monster – with a clarity of emotion rarely seen in this medium. The weight of years of sadness is evident on every line of Guy’s face. The evorah are faceless beasts but there is something familiar about them. There is so much horrifying detail in the backgrounds, especially during the scenes of carnage. The gore isn’t nasty but it is effective. The pages where the Kindred backstory is explained switch tone to almost sketch-like monochrome drafts – very effective storytelling. That is key to a good comic. The art has just as important a role in the storytelling as the narrative and the plot. Lindsay and Gieni have it spot on, shifting pace, tone and artistic style as required.

Negative Space won’t be for everyone. It isn’t something to necessarily enjoy, especially superficially. It is not a straight up horror, although it is horrific. It has a proper subtext, shows clarity of thought and looks terrific. There aren’t many comic books that look and feel like this so if you can handle the bleak, enjoy some proper emotional heart and wonder what a real hero might look like, you should pick this up.

Title: Negative Space 

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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