Enormous #1 (One-Shot)
Written by Tim Daniel
Art by Mehdi Cheggour
Review by Joey Braccino
About a year ago, Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour started using Facebook and www.theenormouscomic.com to tease their upcoming, “ambitious” project for Image Comics. They’ve posted pin-ups of all the characters, T-Shirts for sale, interviews, trailers, and even a full soundtrack. The website promised a post-apocalyptic story of giant monsters terrorizing a dwindling human population. Today, after nearly a year of social media hype, Enormous hits stands.
Yes, Enormous does indeed explore a dystopian future in which genetically engineered monsters roam about eating humans and destroying everything. About a year prior to the primary action of the story, the monsters got out, producing an Extinction level event in which said monsters massacred the majority of the population. Tim Daniel sparks interest by creating a dystopian future in which humans’ days are numbered without using the more in-vogue devices like Zombie apocalypse, global warming, or pandemic. He chooses instead to end the world by Giant-Quasi-Dinosaur-Flying-Blood-Sucking monsters, which is at the very least a novel way of framing a story.
The set-up is reminiscent of films like Reign of Fire (DRAGONS!) and those classic Kaiju (GODZILLA!) Japanese flicks, in which bands of survivors hole up in abandoned buildings and make desperate, dangerous runs for food, resources, or other survivors. Said runs are often filled with gunfire and/or the occasional surprise intrusion one of the aforementioned frightening, blood-sucking monsters. The actual plot beats of Enormous, however, are much more difficult to parse out. Our heroine, Ellen, is part of a Search & Recovery team tasked with locating children who have survived E-Day, and the action of the comic starts when her latest recovery mission into the city of Phoenix goes awry. Enter another band of survivors, this group malevolent and self-serving (think The Governor from The Walking Dead), who abducts Ellen and tries to use her to locate her friends and their resources. Hilarity ensues.
Well, at least, I think hilarity ensues. While the set-up may be interesting, and the backstory to the genetic monstrosities that roam about is hinted at in short flashbacks, Tim Daniel’s plotting is just as muddled as Mehdi Cheggour’s artwork (more on that in a minute). Because Daniel is limited to a 60-page One-Shot to set up his entire story, much of the action in Enormous is rushed and the character development is sparse. The reader is introduced to over a dozen characters in the first half of the book, and there just isn’t enough time or space to get a feel for who’s who in the context of the story. This is Daniel’s debut as writer; his former credits for Image include producing design elements for comics and compiling information for the Powers Encyclopedia and Walking Dead Survivor’s Guide. With Enormous, Daniel hits a lot of first-time snags, including unbalanced pacing and overambitious plotting.
What makes matters worse is that Cheggour’s heavy digital inking makes it difficult to distinguish characters from one another. As you read on, you get the feeling that something vital is happening, but you can’t quite tell to whom. Refer back to the cover image at the top of the page: Ellen, Cassidy, Madridge (male), and Selene all share several design elements. Frankly, I wouldn’t have even realized that there was a Selene in the story if I wasn’t prompted by the cover. The fact that the characterization is so limited both visually and narratively is incredibly frustrating, and the reader ultimately detaches from the action of the story.
Back to the artwork: Mehdi Cheggour is a fresh-faced (just 21 years old!) newcomer to the comics industry. His style is similar to that of digital painters/hyper-realists Clayton Crain, Simone Bianchi, or Gabriele Dell’Otto. I’ve always found such artwork to be visually fascinating and, often, absolutely gorgeous. Still, I’ve noticed at least two pratfalls to digital artwork that diminish the quality of the overall comic: first, digital artwork sometimes reads flat in the sense that it lacks the kinetic energy of more traditional pencil and ink drawings; second, digital artwork sometimes appears muddled due to dark, heavily shaded renderings. Both issues plague Enormous. From panel to panel, the artwork is incredibly realistic, and Cheggour’s monster designs are disturbing, but in terms of storytelling, the artwork fails to create any emotional resonance or motion. Some of that responsibility falls on Daniel’s poor pacing of the plot, but a comic depends on visual clarity.
Despite an interesting premise and some potentially fascinating moral questions, Enormous doesn’t quite work on a technical level. The pacing both visually and narratively is completely off, and, as a result, it’s difficult to really get into the action. The artwork is pretty, but pretty isn’t enough when it comes to telling a story. The ending is left open-ended, and the premise is promising enough that I might want to explore the world of Enormous further, but this One-Shot just doesn’t have the wow-factor that a pilot issue for a new series requires to get off the ground. Furthermore, the long year of social media build-up to this comic promised something a little more polished than the final product. Enormous proves that any work must be able to stand on its own even if the reader hasn’t followed along on-line for a year. Bummer.