After an unceremonious introduction, Mer finds herself suddenly swept into the world of the sym gangs in 20XX #2, out this week from Image Comics.
Surviving the attack by East Side gang members, Lucas brings Mer to meet with the West Side leader. The question: how will she choose to use her new powers, and where will they lead her now?
Our first issue of this four-part series focused primarily on establishing our story, worldbuilding, and introducing the cast of characters. With 20XX #2, though, the creators toss the reader into the deep end of the pool. The intricacies of inter-gang politicking take up most of this issue, with our protagonist barely managing to keep up.
Writers Lauren Keely and Jonathan Luna pack a lot of information into this single issue. The book is fast-paced in terms of how it’s plotted. However, characters tend to be rather long-winded, with a lot of dialogue crowding each page. The result is that the book can feel slow, despite actually moving along quite fast.
The writers also deepen the story significantly with 20XX #2, adding several new threads to the larger plot. We have more characters, each reacting to the state of the world in different ways. We have drug dealing and conflict between rival sym factions. Then, we have Mer’s life outside of the gang, as she tries to adjust and meet other nonaligned syms. It’s a rich narrative…almost to a fault. This all might have been helped by having one or two more issues to spread across, given the relative complexity of the story. This would have helped with the pacing of the story.
Keely and Luna aren’t subtle about the themes of oppression and fear regarding the sym population in 20XX #2. While it can be a bit heavy-handed, it’s still within the realm of believability, given the scope of this disease. It’s entirely believable how a disaster on this scale, compounded by catastrophic climate damage, might have warped society significantly.
In all, the writing is strong. Almost too strong, truth be told; as mentioned, this story really feels like it will need more than four issues to tell in a satisfying manner.
In addition to writing, Luna also provides illustrations for 20XX #2. The character designs are excellent overall, with the artist opting for a realistic style. The precision of the inks, along with the softer designs and lines and the absence of colors, gives the work a soft quality that is easy on the eyes.
Luna’s characters are generally expressive, and convey a sense of liveliness and animation. The reader can pick up on the doubt, confusion, or shock conveyed in a character’s eyes and body language. There are points at which they can feel a bit stiff, though, so it’s not as consistent as one might like.
While there is considerable detail in the illustrations, the settings themselves are very minimal. We see a lot of nearly-empty rooms and blank walls, with maybe a table or a window being the only set dressing. As a result, much of the focus is on the characters. That said, the figures feel almost as if they’re interacting in a blank void through much of the book.
20XX #2 is a solid second chapter for this miniseries. It’s a rich and complex story that holds the reader’s attention, even through the sequences of extended dialogue.