THIS REVIEW OF ‘THE NEW WORLD’ #1 IS SPOILER-FREE.
By Brendan F. Hodgdon. While there is a constant rancor these days about the presence of personal politics in pop culture, it’s only fitting that a creator-centric enterprise like Image Comics feature art that fully reflects the beliefs of the artists. In such conflicted times, it’s reassuring to see comics that speak to the present moment with conviction and purpose. Sometimes it can go horribly awry (witness Divided States of Hysteria) but often this medium can be a prime vessel for communicating values and beliefs.
One writer who forcefully and repeatedly demonstrates this is Aleš Kot. A quick look at Kot’s Twitter shows his willingness to speak hard truths about our society. Even in writing titles like Secret Avengers and James Bond, he is fearless in tackling difficult and heady themes. But it is in his creator-owned books that Kot does his best work, and this year he has delivered a one-two punch of challenging, provocative series that reflect the ugliness of our times back to us with grim gusto.
The first of these books, Days of Hate, recently wrapped up its first act to great acclaim. And now the other, The New World, is poised to follow in its impressive footsteps. Thanks in no small part to the mind-blowing work of Tradd Moore and a cadre of collaborators, The New World more than stands on its own. Indeed, this Shakespearean love story between a police state cop and a freedom fighter stands a chance to be a seminal piece from this era… one that we hopefully won’t be calling “prophetic” twenty years from now.
Written by Aleš Kot.
Art by Tradd Moore.
Colors by Heather Moore.
Flats by Yesflat.
Letters by Clayton Cowles.
Design by Tom Muller.
Would You Like To Know Moore? Tradd Moore’s style is an ideal choice for the story being told. His cartoonish character designs in particular fit the broad, Verhoevian tone that Kot lays out in the script, and he does a great job of capturing the grounded details that sell the world and characters too. The run-down comfort of freedom fighter Kirby’s home feels real, as does the emotions that are immaculately rendered on police officer Stella’s face. Moore is able to convey the absurdity of this world without sacrificing the emotions underneath it.
And there’s a very in-depth exploration of both, thanks to the gargantuan page count of this first issue. Kot and Moore fully immerse us in the time and place that Stella and Kirby share on both a macro and micro level. The extended, splash-page-heavy expository intro would be a death knell for a normal issue, but with this many story pages to back it up it feels ideal. What’s more notable is how even with the extra space there’s little traditional “action” in the issue; aside from one kinetic sequence, it’s mostly political machinations and love connections. The focus is on the characters, with a lot less of the usual obfuscating, Whammo Chart-mandated action beats.
One Night Only. What really makes this issue hit home is the romance. Thanks to the quality character work that Kot, Moore et al. do throughout the issue, the connection between the cop and the revolutionary feels as raw and tangible as it does absurd. The strains and stresses that both Stella and Kirby face cry out for relief, and when they get such release from each other it’s easy to imagine how it might influence their choices. This is even more believable when their meet-cute is realized as beautifully as it is here.
There’s a montage sequence that follows Stella and Kirby through their meeting and their subsequent hooking up which is quixotic and has a fluidity to it. The scene conveys the desperate, sloppy, we-only-have-tonight energy that flows between our protagonists while immersing us in the comfort of a moment free from politics and resistance and order, showing how intoxicating such a moment can be. Of course, such a colossal delusion will always be shattered eventually (as it is here). But one hopes that it will still lead Stella and Kirby to a deeper and more significant catharsis… assuming they live through the story to see it.
Today’s Tomorrow. The New World is a brash and kinetic comic book, one that speaks to the present moment. Once you sift through all the (very engaging) star-crossed romance and high-energy artwork, you’ll find a very unsettling yet plausible future that clearly speaks to the dangers of the present. Like the best science fiction, The New World confronts us with the society we’ve built and enabled, and challenges us to see it for what it really is. The result, even with just this first issue, will hopefully raise questions in the reader as to where our way of life currently stands—and whether or not we will make the effort change it.
The shattered America of The New World is not for the faint of heart. It’s a reality where even in New California—which readers on both the left and right might presume to be some sort of liberal paradise—the monstrous Mexico border wall is alive and well, and fascistic cops take execution orders in real time from livestream-watching citizens. Kot and Moore seem ready to ditch any fairy tales about the progressivism of the coasts in exchange for telling harsh truths about the brutality and authoritarianism that many of us are willing to accept in our world. It is a sobering message delivered in a bright candy wrapper, and a very necessary one at that.
9 out of 10
‘The New World’ #1 hits stores July 25.