Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colors: Nic Klein
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
GFX & Design: Tom Muller
The easiest way for me to describe VS #1 is that it is a combination of Gladiator and the Hunger Games while also a commentary on societies obsession with violent video games and reality TV. It’s an interesting idea and works as both sci-fi action and social commentary on the glorification of violence. VS #1 is a two part story yet both dealing with all-star gladiator Satta Flynn. In one setting Flynn is excelling on the field of combat as he is yet again staring in a gladiatorial campaign where he leads his squad against an opponent. The fighting is brutal and the causality rate is high. The second part of the story deals with Flynn recovering from wounds, no doubt sustained in the gladiatorial games. This part of the story establishes the fame Flynn has, as Gladiators in this society are as revered as professional football players are in American culture. It isn’t clear which part of the story comes first as it doesn’t feel linear but is, intentionally or unintentionally, unclear. What is clear is that Flynn’s stardom rests on his ability to fight and just like a football player ignoring concussions symptoms or warnings from medical professionals Flynn is willing to fight or needs to fight even against his doctors wishes. An intriguing social commentary on the pedestal we put professional athletes on in our culture as well as the lengths they will go to perform to keep their fame and wealth.
I’m torn on VS as a whole. It’s a beautiful book as Esad Ribic is a phenomenal artist in the vein of Frank Frazzetta. I’d read a Bloodstrike reboot if Ribic was drawing it, which is saying a lot for anyone who lived through the Extreme Studio days of the ‘90s. The pages in VS #1 are gorgeous and captivating. This is obviously a labor of love for Ribic and the beautiful color palate used by Nic Klein only amplifies Ribic’s work. The colors are gloomy with bits of brightness that really draw the reader in. The story is entertaining. I have not read any of Ivan Brandon’s other works but the story is enjoyable. Yet with all that being said VS feels like another Image sci-fi dystopian story. If it didn’t have Ribic on artwork it would probably be lumped in with the other Image titles in this vein and it might not have drawn my attention. Also like many Image mini-series it will probably read better as a whole in a collected edition rather than month-to-month.
Verdict: VS #1 is a beautiful comic with an interesting concept of reality TV gladiator games as professional sport. Esad Ribic’s artwork is a big draw and the story is entertaining but will probably read better as a collected edition in a few months.