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A unique tale for comics to tackle, Snyder and Sherman's Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 is a deeply compelling comic from the perspective of people used and forgotten by society.
Writing/Plot
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Letters

Review: DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #1 – Re-Education Through Fire

From modern comics all-star writer Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire) and breakout artist Hayden Sherman (Above Snakes) comes a story unlike any we’ve seen in the comics medium – and seldom seen in any other medium – with Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1. Published under IDW’s new line of originals and featuring the colors of Ronda Pattison with lettering from Andworld Design, this first issue is a deeply compelling chapter from the perspective of human beings most often used and forgotten by society. With an outstanding, humanizing script and phenomenal visual work, Wildfire is one of the best debut issues of the year.

“Six weeks into the slow burn of the historic Arroyo Fire, a crew of women from an inmate firefighting program are risking everything on the frontlines when their newest recruit – a white-collar convict with a deep network of shady dealers – discovers they’re mere miles from her crooked former associate’s mansion. When she proposes a plan to abandon their duties and hunt for riches under cover of smoke and ash, the team must decide if they’re ready to jeopardize their one sure path back to normalcy for a shot at a score that would change their lives… But is this a flicker of fortune or a deadly trap?”

Writing & Plot

Scott Snyder turns in one of the finest scripts of his wildly impressive career with Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1. Mostly known for horror stories and Batman comics, the contemporary heavyweight switches gears to write a human story embedded in our actual reality – and nails the landing. This crew of inmate firefighters are some of the most “real” feeling characters in recent comics. The mix of information-laced dialogue, internal narration from main character “Ma,” and varied, naturalistic dialogue go even further to make this book feel even more palpable. Snyder also works wonders here by setting up a fantastic twist & mix of genres. This is a brilliant blend of heist and survival, and even though this is just the introductory stage, the whole concept is constructed so thoroughly that it lends confidence in how great this whole series will be.

Snyder’s strongest decision here is humanizing these women well-beyond the fact that they’re inmates. He talks about their mistakes to some degree – we only learn what one person, the white collar criminal of the bunch, has done – but their past is never the focus. Ultimately the conclusion that is drawn is that, while these women are great at what they do, they are only so because they look out for each other. Snyder fully acknowledges the inherent corruption in this criminal justice system, and that using criminals as slave labor is morally reprehensible. These women decide to pull off this heist partially out of revenge against the kind of people who take advantage of them, but also out of sheer necessity. They know society will never treat them fairly, so why should they play by its rules – especially since those rules are horribly skewed, if not outright nonexistent.

That’s just good writing.

Art Direction

Great characters and burning landscapes need an artist with stellar directing and an eye for detail. Fortunately, Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 has notable newcomer Hayden Sherman to craft this comic’s visual experience. The Above Snakes (which just landed last week) artist gives each of our leading ladies a distinct look and key features that make them feel more real. Their animations and acting are stellar, pulling readers in and making the cast easy to empathize with. Sherman’s landscape work here is also outstanding, especially since the vast majority of the setting is on fire. There’s an almost ethereal quality to how they render fire swallowing up forests. Much of this too is due to the color work, which we’ll get to in a minute. However, the most impressive aspect of Sherman’s work here is their composition and blocking. Their direction is absolutely seamless despite utilizing many irregular types of panel construction. Figures often overlap or undercut panels, and the panels themselves tend to be “floating” atop the background rather than make up the page’s construction. Sherman’s composition makes the experience highly atmospheric, all while telling a very straightforward and character focused story.

The visual experience is rounded out and perfected by Ronda Pattison’s outstanding colors. Her striking gradients of violets and flaming oranges capture the devastation of a forest fire while also rendering the carnage as beautiful. Many of the panels are spot-on with how the night sky looks when lit by a raging blaze. While Pattison’s entire range of colors here is stellar, it it this aspect that makes this comic appear as an absolute wonder. The lettering from Andworld Design has a uniquely hand drawn appearance to it while still being easy to read. The design choices within the word balloons and narration boxes are relatively minimalistic, but the overall experience matches the rest of the book very well. Wildfire overall is a brilliantly designed and stunningly drawn comic.

Verdict

Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 is a phenomenally executed, character-focused opening chapter to this new series from IDW. Scott Snyder pens one of the best scripts of his already landmark career, with an issue that tackles multiple political quandaries, blends slow-burn action genres, and is still deeply human. The visuals from Hayden Sherman and Ronda Pattison are immensely impressive and sharply designed, making for one of the best first issues of the year so far. Be sure to grab this new release when it hits shelves on July 20th!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.

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Review: DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #1 - Re-Education Through FireA unique tale for comics to tackle, Snyder and Sherman's Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 is a deeply compelling comic from the perspective of people used and forgotten by society.