Pariah #1

There are several things to know about this title. First, it’s published by Sea Lion Books, which is yet another incarnation of some group of Dabel Brothers. In comics, they’re known for making big plans, often involving licensed comics from big-name authors, and then bailing before the series conclude, often owing creators money. Not necessarily the kind of company I want to support, and anyone who signs on to one of their comic series should know they may never see the conclusion.

Pariah #1 cover

Second, Pariah is one of those “we really want it to be a movie” Hollywood-connected productions. There are already video clips available to flesh out the background. It’s being promoted as “from the mind of Oscar-winning film producer Aron Warner” to give it that associated glamour. (He worked on the Shrek movies, the first of which won that Academy Award.) But really, it’s created by two other people.

Third, they don’t have the lingo down. This isn’t a “twelve-book graphic novel series”, it’s a 12-issue miniseries that they likely intend to collect as a graphic novel. 24 pages does not a “graphic novel” make, but that’s the buzzword to use these days.

Last, I’m not sure when this first issue is coming out — it was due in July, and well, that month is now passed. The book’s website, while pretty, doesn’t have an announcement that I could find. There is a preview there, though.

Yet, all that said, this first issue is pretty good, and I want to read more. It hits several classic buttons for fans — the persecuted kid, smarter than everyone around him, misunderstood by parents and bullied at school — and ramps them up to the Nth degree. It’s a modern-day X-Men, a group of special people who are hated and feared just for the talents they were born with.

In the near future, Brent Marks is a super-intelligent teen, one of the “vitros”. The public is already suspicious of these kids, and then a deadly lab explosion is blamed on them. The vitros are labeled dangerous and rounded up by the government (although we only see Brent’s story here). It reminded me a bit of Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain, which is also about genetically engineered kids whose presence freaks out the dumber normals.

Art is by Brett Weldele, best known for The Surrogates (which also became a movie) and currently Oni’s Spontaneous. I actually like it better here. While it’s still nicely moody, the additional color palette, more varied than I’ve seen on his work previously, made it more readable for me. It counterpoints the grim conspiracy and survival efforts coming. Weldele’s expressions are as varied as ever, showing us how difficult life is for Brent, who doesn’t belong anywhere.

Writer Philip Gelatt has also worked for Oni, on the upcoming Petrograd. There’s a lot of narration in this issue, whether from TV talking heads or internal monologue by Brent, in order to set up the premise. That makes the book feels dense and worthwhile, although it puts the art in second place position to the text.

Sea Lion has also released Dark Swan, which has shipped two issues so far. That one is much less interesting, another Anita Blake-style series about a busty demon fighter who has sex with those she battles and fights in the nude. (To be fair, there is also a nude, well-built guy in those scenes.)

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