Deep State #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Ariela Kristantina
Color: Ben Wilsonham
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Review by Gary Chapin
So, you know that thing when you see a comic on the stands and it looks good. It’s got all the elements you look for. There’s a intriguing philosophical opening (“Every story wants to be told.”) An intricate (infinite) system of conspiracy theories. An “agents-in-black-suits” team with a great dynamic. Cool stuff relating to a counter-history of the American and Soviet space programs. And zombie/ghost/things. “This is great,” you think, and you take the leap and buy the thing.
Then, you get home and read it and realize, not only is it great, it’s really great. Aside from all the elements that float your boat, there’s something else going on. Something subtle and nuanced. The art and writing are perfect.
That’s what happened to me when I read BOOM! Studios Deep State #1.
I noticed it around page 7. There’s a wordless sequence wherein Agent Branch returns to her apartment. Someone’s waiting for her. She moves through the apartment for one page, without words. The art is quietly cinematic. The tension builds until … the first line of dialogue on the next page releases the tension and starts to move the plots and characters forward with questions and more questions. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the moment. Maybe it was the glass of wine. But something special was happening on page 7, and, I realized, in the rest of the book.
The story — in a criminally inadequate nutshell — involves the return of a lost Soviet space capsule to Earth. The inhabitants of the capsule have changed and it will be the job of Our Heroes (an aging agent and a young protégé) to deal with the situation. All of this happens against a backstory that … well, you don’t know what the backstory is because everything you learned in History Class has been lies! Lies told by Our Heroes, no less.
Kristantina’s art is executed in a semi-realistic, noir style that suits the conspiracy/horror story and works in tandem with the genuinely excellent writing. The rhythms are ideal from panel to panel, page to page, and chapter to chapter. The first page starts with a space capsule plummeting to the Earth. Following chapters shift to other people and places, but converge back on the space capsule (and its inhabitants) for the suspenseful end shot. (Seriously, if it had been a movie, I would have yelped!)
Verdict. Buy it! The storytelling collaboration of Jordan and Kristantina is amazing in a way that I’m finding hard to articulate. It’s like when a friend asks why you like a particular book, and you resort to, “… and the writing is so damn good!” And that’s the case here, there’s more than the usual mix of intriguing elements, characters, and plot twists … and the storytelling is so damn good!