COMIC REVIEW: Ordinary Issue #1

The strapline for Rob Williams and D’Israeli’s Ordinary goes like this: “What if everyone woke up with superpowers – and it was the worst thing in the world?” This shines a very bright light on what kind of comic book you can expect. The bright purple and white cover confirms the notion that this isn’t going to be subtle; that this is going to be loud and proud.

Meet Michael Fisher. He’s a down-trodden New York plumber, recently divorced. Our protagonist is dreaming of a date with Scarlett Johansson. She turns him down. He’s a loser, even in his own head. He wakes up in an appallingly dirty room, and he’s late. He needs to get across town to join his colleague on a particularly tricky job. En route, we learn via an encounter with some comedic heavies that he’s in debt to a Samoan gangster. Then, at the job, something happens to his client. Something happens to his partner, Brian. Something has happened to everyone. Except Michael.

All through the first section of issue #1 there are small clues to what is happening. There’s the obvious, such as the damaged plane, to the less obvious; a kid’s toy is red in one panel and gold in the next. It reminded me a little of the film Shaun of the Dead where the world is going to hell but everyone is wrapped up in themselves to notice. It certainly draws you in. You know something significant is about to happen. But will it happen to Michael?

There is so much wit and imagination in this comic that it’s hard not to smile when reading it. Sure, the plot itself is basic and Michael’s introduction is a tad heavy-handed. We don’t need the dream, the flat, the gangsters and Brian’s reactions to underline the fact he’s one of life’s losers. He’s drawn that way, to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit.  D’Israeli (The Sandman, Tank Girl, Low Life and Judge Dredd amongst others) has drawn the book in bold lines and his themed colours run through each page. He’s drawn Michael exactly as you’d imagine him: dishevelled, unkempt, frowning all the time. The panelling is mostly straight forward, small boxes or single pages for the big reveals. This works well, not detracting from the simple tale. The backgrounds too are uncomplicated, which also works within the comic’s framework. It doesn’t feel like it belongs elsewhere. It feels standalone.

The dialogue is snappy and there are some great lines. When Brian ‘turns’ he lends himself to the best lines, especially when seeking solace in the bar. Even the corny joke works in context. Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Low Life, Judge Dredd and others) is clearly having fun with Ordinary. It works. It is the dark mirror to the classic superhero origin story and in a time when everyone is trying to re-invent the superhero, Williams and D’Israeli have created something that stands out from the crowd. They’ve worked together in the past, most notably on Low Life in 2000AD. They must have had a blast dreaming up the supporting characters in Ordinary and it shows. It is a fine thing when the passion of the creators is clear on the page and I think this comic almost nails it.

Ordinary, thus far, is a simple story (I imagine we’ll learn more and achieve some depth of character and story in subsequent issues) and yes, our protagonist is a touch heavy-handed and clichéd in his introduction, but we’re talking about dragons and helicopter crashes, giants and talking (smoking and drinking) bears, melting people and cartoon presidents, kid Midas and a taxi driver made of a universe. Wit and charm. Vibrant art and did I mention the talking bear? What’s not to like?

Title: Ordinary

Publisher: Titan Comics

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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