Review: PANDEMICA #1 Throws Us Towards Armageddon

FIRST IMPRESSION

A surprising start to the series, especially if you know nothing about this comic going in. The pages are packed with information which has it's ups and downs but overall an enthralling read.
Writing/Story
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering
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From New York Times Bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry, and IDW Publishing comes a new Post-Apocalyptic thriller to get your teeth into. Pendemica is a disturbing mix of horror and political intrigue waiting to get you hooked.

With the bravado of a James Bond movie and the pacing of a Frank Miller comic, Pandemica hits the floor running and doesn’t pause for breath. The question is, can you keep up with the break neck speeds with which Maberry writes?

PANDEMICA #1 Throws Us Towards Armageddon
Pandemica #1 Credit: IDW Publishing

Spreading The Pandemic

Quite often post-apocalyptic stories throw the reader straight in at the deep end with a world already in ruins. This approach was taken with films like Mad Max and comics like The Walking Dead and the more recent Orphan Age. In each of those examples, the creators introduced the survivors and built the world from their perspective. In Pandemica Maberry instead faces the ‘end’ head on, with the destroyed world becoming the mysterious place, barely featured.

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It starts with an act of terrorism reminiscent of flashback sequences from V For Vendetta,  portrayed in the style of a Mission Impossible movie. A secretive figure is shown breaking into the South Texas Detention Complex and poisoning a water supply. This heralds the start of a contagion that ruthlessly attacks specific members of society.

The story follows the Mulder-esq character, Dr Katz who has an outlandish theory about the contagion that even his own government doesn’t want to hear. Maberry introduces Dr Katz on a television show mocking him and his ideas while passing comment on modern news reporting.

Maberry keeps the action moving while spinning out the conspiracy at the heart of the story. The narrative is fast paced, like a Dan Brown novel set in the X-Files universe. As a reader, you barely get the chance to breath as one scene slides into another, each introducing new elements or advancing the plot at an alarming rate.

Despite this high octane approach to storytelling, Maberry has complete control over the characters and their development. He introduces a fairly large cast, especially for a first issue, but he gives everyone their own space to make an impact. There are some architypes in there that you would expect from a thriller of this nature however, Maberry goes above and beyond in the creation and presentation of these characters.

PANDEMICA #1 Throws Us Towards Armageddon
Pandemica #1 Credit: IDW Publishing

Drawing To The End

The super-fast pace of Pandemica works because Alex Sanchez keeps a tight rein on the images, controlling what the reader sees on every page. His layouts are designed to give the reader as much information as possible in the least amount of panels. This is achieved with careful planning the establishing shots and a minimal of panel transitions per scene.

That is not to say that the narrative is rushed through the pages. Sanchez instead picks out the specific elements of each scene and relays these to the reader in detailed panels. The composition of the panels illustrates much more than what the reader can see. Sanchez brings out the characters using body language and expressive gestures.

A large portion of the page is taken up with text, turning some sections almost into prose. Shawn Lee splits the speech up using the balloons to create natural pauses and breaks in conversation. He positions the word balloons on the page to create a flow of dialogue leading the reader either across the page or directly down it.

Some of these pages are extremely well laid out to control the reader but there is a certain amount of over load, especially with text. The coloring helps to pacify a large extent of this, with Jay Fotos’ natural colors emphasising Sanchez’ heavy inking style.

For the majority of the comic, the combination of art and letters carries the narrative and in the moments where the page is too densely packed the intriguing aspect of the story itself is enough to see the reader through.

PANDEMICA #1 Throws Us Towards Armageddon
Pandemica #1 Credit: IDW Publishing

Conclusion

Pandemica is a refreshing take on an apocalyptic narrative and it’s obsession with the build-up gives it an edge over other comics in the same genre. The narrative style has more in common with block buster movie thrillers than the type of comic you would expect from Pandemica’s cover. This is certainly a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. It is a clever comic in many respects but occasionally attempts too much at once.

If you enjoy binge worthy Netflix thrillers or political page-turners in the style of Tom Clancy then you’ll love Pandemica. If you’re looking for a Walking Dead replacement, you might have to wait a few issues.

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Darryll Robson
Darryll Robsonhttp://www.comiccutdown.com
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. Waiting patiently for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.

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