Vertical Quarterly #1
Story: Shaun Simon, Joe Keatinge, Lee Garbett, Jock, Amy Chu, Monty Nero, Cris Peter, Ana Koehler, Robert Rodi, James Tynion IV, Fabio Moon
Pencils: Tony Akins, Ken Garing, Jock, Alitha Martinez, Al Daviso, Ana Koehler, Javi Fernandez, Martin Morazzo, Fabio Moon
Inks: Tony Akins, Ken Garing, Jock, Alitha Martinez, Al Davison, Ana Koehler, Javi Fernandez, Martin Morazzo, Fabio Moon
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse, Ken Garin, Lee Loughridge, Tom Chu, Al Davison, Cris Peter, Jose Villarrubia, Patricia Mulvihill, Fabio Moon
Letters: Dezi Sienty, Todd Klein, Jared K. Fletcher, Taylor Esposito, Carlos Mangual, John J. Hill, Clem Robins, Travis Lanham, Fabio Moon
Vertigo has been putting out some great stuff lately, and has added yet another great publication to their staple with Vertigo Quarterly #1: Cyan. The concept is that each of the four issues will cover a different color that’s part of the four-color process of old-school comics making: Cyan for Spring, Magenta for Summer, Yellow for Autumn, and BlacK for Winter.
Cyan, or Blue, is the theme color for this issue, and each creative team is given liberty to use the color as a springboard for their ideas. We get nine different stories, each of which utilize the Cyan theme in completely different ways, some more overt than others. Given that this is a collection of short stories, it’s best to review each one individually, as they don’t necessarily add up to a whole – none of them take place in the same “universe” or lead into one another.
Serial Artist by Shaun Simon and Tony Akins starts things off, and is a dark, twisted story featuring a combo serial killer/artist, her undertaker boyfriend, and a bit of a twist ending that sets the stage for many of the stories to come (most of them feature some kind of unexpected twist ending to them). The Cyan theme here is minimal, but does play out in a few interesting ways. The art features some distinctive camera angles and some great use of shadows on one page, and colorist Andrew Dalhouse makes the fun and appropriate decision to use black-and-white to distinguish scenes that take place in the past.
918 is up next, by Joe Keatinge and Ken Garing. I have to admit I’m a bit biased against this story, despite absolutely loving the art, only because it heavily features drug use and a character looking to make his next score, and that’s really just not my thing. Despite that, again, I really liked the art and the very fun and unique character designs, as this story takes place in a futuristic alien setting full of so many different creatures that it makes the Cantina from Star Wars look like your grandma’s house. There is cyan (blue) featured throughout in every single panel, and once you’ve read the story it’s fun to figure out why two panels were chosen not to feature the color.
Blue Sundae is the third story, by Lee Garbett and Jock. Of all the stories in this collection, this is one that I could see being developed into at least a mini-series if not an on-going monthly. The setting looks extremely familiar – vehicles and technology are essentially the same as what we deal with on a day to day basis. And yet the main character is an ice cream man who, with his fellow ice cream man friend, appear to be monster hunters. As in – the ice cream man’s job is to fight monsters. And there’s a crazy-mad beast in this one who needs to be taken down, and Jock does his usual magic with depicting it, as well as the characters and the rest of the setting. Ice cream truck drivers who fight monsters! Come on – how can you not be intrigued by that?
So Blue by Amy Chu and Alitha Martinez is up next – a story of a former diva that the world seems to have forgotten in the wake of the new pop star of the moment, and a reflection on how modern entertainment is often too concerned with social media “broadcasting” and being seen at the right place with the right person. The art here is nicely done – character designs are distinct and Martinez does a neat job juxtaposing the young pop star, who looks bright and bubbly and annoying, against the older diva, who looks withdrawn, tired, and annoyed. There are some great panel designs, too, where characters pop out beyond the borders. It’s a small thing, but I liked it in the context of this story. The ending has a bit of a twist, again as most of the stories in this collection do, with a nice nod to the first three panels of the story.
Next up is Much Ado About Nothing by Monty Nero and Al Davison, and this one vies for my favorite story in the collection with Blue Sundae. This is the story of a special government terrorism task force, the National Cyber Agency, and what happens when internal politics, petty rivalries, and government bureaucracy get in the way of people doing their jobs and actually preventing bad things from happening. And bad things definitely do happen in this story. I can’t say much more without giving away the story, except to say that if you like numbers, you’ll like this one a lot. The black-and-white art with a touch of blue for the narration boxes, and particularly the panel designs, are all a great match for the story.
Rebolt by Cris Peter and Ana Koehler delivers us the story of worker rebellion against evil corporations in a steampunk world that’s beautifully rendered in Koehler’s art. This is another story that’s just begging to be expanded upon in some future format, whether a mini-series are at least a continued presence in Vertigo Quarterly. I love the character designs in this one – the clothing and vehicles are all very Victorian but just slightly off, and the steampunk machine creations are absolutely top-notch. Art-wise, this is one of the strongest stories in the book. The world creation is well-done, and while the conflict in the story itself is just kind of run-of-the-mill, that’s mainly just due to space limitations.
Madame Bluebeard by Robert Rodi and Javi Fernandez is a 1960s period piece involving actors, singers, and other performers, all who seem to be trying to keep a secret, and a period-appropriate “starlet” whose life intersects with each of the other characters at different points throughout the story. It’s a little confusing to get into at first, but then settles down and delivers the twist ending that Vertigo Quarterly seems to be striving for. There are some really great artistic choices done here, including using a character’s cigarette smoke to form the figure of another character, and using the edge of a film strip as the border divider on certain pages. It’s a fun story with a dark ending.
James Tynion IV and Martin Morazzo deliver us Once Upon the End of Time, another futuristic tale that begins with a bit of world-building. The blue in here is quite minimal, but it’s used to great effect. The story provides Morazzo a chance to design some really cool vehicles and architecture that exist in the somewhat post-apocalyptic backdrop created by Tynion, and we also get one of the more uplifting twist endings of this collection.
This collection finishes on the positive notes of Breaking News of the Wonders the Future Holds, written, illustrated, colored, and lettered by Fabio Moon. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this story on the first page, but as I got into it I saw what I think Moon was going for, using references to Beatles songs as a backdrop for a story about two artistic types whose world is turned upside after they lose their funding, and spend the rest of the story wondering what’s going to happen next. Through it all, depression and anxiety do not set in, but rather just an honest look at the opportunities that lay before them. As someone who owns his own business (a boutique ad agency), I could totally relate to the initial shock of losing funding, and then the need to be positive and just figuring out how to move on to the next thing. A somewhat subtle nod to D.C. moving from New York to Los Angeles completes the story, and serves as the end-note to this entire collection.
Vertigo Quarterly #1: Cyan is an example of what can come from great artists and writers getting together and creating great stories that aren’t tied to big cross-title events or main characters. There’s bound to be at least something in here that you’ll like, but chances are if you approach it with an open mind, most of these stories will resonate with you on an artistic, emotional, or psychological level.