DOSE! is a new indie comic by writer Sean Ellis and artist John Gebbia that shows a dark underbelly to the world of superheroes.
The series centers on Screw Worm, an ex-teenage sidekick with a drug problem. In the world he lives in, the extraordinary is just ordinary. Kaiju walk the streets, and everybody seems to have a superpower. In DOSE! #1, we follow Worm as he stumbles his way through his daily life, trying to find his next fix.
This comic is a labor of love for Ellis and Gebbia — a self-funded endeavor that you can actually read online for free, and which the creators hope to be able to keep free and online forever.
The first thing you notice reading DOSE! is the crowded scenery. Gebbia packs each setting with an insane amount of detail. Screw Worm’s humble abode is filled to the brim with junk. The streets are overflowing with people. It’s a claustrophobic reading experience where you genuinely feel like you don’t have enough room to breathe.
And that uncomfortable motif is carried out throughout the issue. There’s a scene in the latter half of the book in which Worm visits a club where the headlining “act” secretes some sort of liquid through her skin that can get people high. The woman then voluntarily crowd surfs around the room and is licked by her adoring “fans.” It’s disturbing. Very disturbing. But again, this comic doesn’t seem to want you to get comfortable.
DOSE! is a sensory overload that makes your skin crawl, so Ellis and Gebbia are actually putting you — the reader — in the same mindset as their protagonist. As Screw Worm struggles his way through his day trying to get a fix, you too will feel a constant sense of unrest and stress.
The solicit text pitches DOSE! as more of a neo-noir, stating that Screw Worm “unwittingly stumbles onto a conspiracy that threatens to hasten the destruction of a world already teetering on the edge of collapse.” You don’t get much of the conspiracy element in this first issue, but what you do get is an established sense of the world on the edge of collapse. It’ll be interesting to see how this story evolves in future issues as Ellis and Gebbia dig deeper into this strange and disturbing world.