Story: Christopher Sebela
Pencils: Ro Stein
Inks: Ted Brandt
Colors: Triona Farrell
Letters: Cardinal Rae
Greetings Comic Fans! Welcome to the wild world of Crowded, which asks the question: what if Uber, Kickstarter and assassination had a baby? To say that I’ve been excited about Crowded is a complete understatement. I’ve been wanting to read this book since I first saw it solicited. I was fortunate enough to meet with author, Chris Sebela at HeroesCon in Charlotte this year. He happened to have an ashcan of Crowded/Shanghai Red which I purchased. Needless to say the story left me wanting more, and finally that day has arrived. Sidenote: If you are excited about a creator, tell them! I was able to talk to Sebela all three days at Heroes, and it was a fantastic experience.
Charlie Ellison is a normal twenty-something grinding out a life working odd jobs via different apps, however her world is turned upside down when someone uses the app, Reapr to put a hit out on her. Scraping the bottom of the barrel in the bodyguard app, Dfend, she hires Vita to protect her from this hit. Charlie has attracted a crowdfunding effort on Reapr, as a result her bounty is so high that practically everyone is trying to kill her.
Sebela does a great job in setting up the world in this first issue. Even going in, we have some unreliable narrators in both Charlie and Vita as they are both lying about situations in their life. I really got the sense of how app driven this world is and how important technology will play a part in this story. He sets the tone right in the first few pages with a big action scene which drives home how much trouble our protagonists are in. My favorite part is where Vita talks about her training regiment, and we see that she does not train at all. She uses her practice dummy as a headrest to watch movies, while she eats popcorn and smokes cigarettes. Later we see her taking out armed gunmen, only to be revealed it’s a VR simulator. So neither character is giving each other the full story.
The pencils and inks by the team of Stein and Brandt are a bold choice considering the source material. It really gave me The Weatherman type vibe where the art and story aren’t totally what you would expect. Considering this is shaping up to be more of a buddy comedy, the art fits the narrative. Stein’s pencils are enjoyable, with the highlight coming when Charlie and Vita escape to Vita’s house. We get a full shot of the inside of the house as they walk through each floor, even down to the support beams for each floor. In a bit of comedic timing, Vita tells Charlie, the dog better not poop in her house, and we see the dog on the second floor peeing all over Vita’s carpet.
With the colors, you should know by now, I love vibrant and brightly colored books. This story is no exception, with Vita wearing a yellow track jacket reminiscent of Kill Bill, her outfit really pops off the page. There is not much darkness in this book, which I really enjoy. Despite the dark subject matter, Sebela, Stein, Brandt and Farrell do not shy away from keeping us aware of everything that is happening in each panel visually. Since this story has a lot of set up and exposition via conversation, Charlie is assigned the color pink when talking, and Vita the color yellow. This allows the story to be told via action panels with a conversation overlay. I really liked this design choice. It makes it very easy to figure out the dialogue between both characters.
Something interesting the creative team has done is made digital skulls their Twitter icons in anticipation for this book. Smartly, they made stickers too! I picked up one at HeroesCon, which happened to be Ro Stein’s skull. I just have to ask the question, why not include their Twitter handles in the book? Given the connection to social media and technology this book has, it would have been a great idea.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
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