Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Death Orb’ #1, out October 3 from Dark Horse Comics.
By Brendan F. Hodgdon. The outlaw is a perpetual and resonant story in American culture. Be it in the Old West or the post-apocalypse, we never seem to tire of stories of lone men prone to violence making their way across the wasteland on some bloody quest. On the dystopian side of things, this has led to tremendous stories like Mad Max and The Book of Eli, and to that honored list you can now include Death Orb, the new title from Ryan Ferrier and Alejandro Aragon. Its dynamite first issue is go-for-broke action storytelling, an intriguing and exciting new mini-series.
Death Orb toes the line between lived-in tangibility and a dreamlike, amorphous quality. The story follows a young hero named Rider on his journey to rescue his wife from the clutches of the mysterious Father and his zealots. The story is basically that simple, stripped down and uncomplicated. The result is a raw nerve, driven by grounded emotion to very heightened ends. As bleak as this world can be, Ferrier’s script connects in a very earnest way, lending credence to the story and its hero.
Flashbacks or an exploration of what Rider’s relationship with his wife was like are missing here, which might have given the issue some extra heft. But even so, the stakes of Rider’s mission are clear and tangible, just enough for what the story needs. And while Death Orb is heavier than Ferrier’s usual fare, there are still flashes of the cockeyed storytelling and gallows humor for which the writer is well-known, and that gives the entire issue a more fluid (and by extension, interesting) tone that helps keep it from becoming too dreary of an apocalypse.
Both hero and world are brought to vivid life by Aragon’s art, which provides great aesthetic elements and drops visceral action beats throughout the issue. Due to the sparseness of the story, Aragon’s work has a lot riding on it in the early going, and thankfully it is up to the task. His scratchy, moody approach is a great fit, and his ability to depict movement and violence gives the book an added energy. That great eye also extends to his framing too; the introductory splash panel of Rider is iconic, instantly frame-able. The series is solicited as “manga-style,” but it really feels like Aragon has employed a clear method of his own here. The book is better for it.
The combination of high-octane, action-driven pacing and mysterious, loosely-defined mythology builds to crescendo in this issue’s climax. How Ferrier and Aragon continue from here will likely reveal more about the nature of this world, and maybe a little bit more about Rider, too. Whether it results in clear answers or not, this Dark Horse Comics mini-series is certainly capable of capturing the reader’s attention. This is a thrilling and beautiful new action comic that’s just damn fun to read. Look no further than the ultraviolent delights of Death Orb.
Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Written & lettered by Ryan Ferrier.
Art by Alejandro Aragon.
Colors by Chris O’Halloran.
8 out of 10
‘Death Orb’ #1 hits stores October 3.