By Brendan Hodgdon. With the explosion of social media culture over the last decade, it’s not very surprising that storytellers have embraced questions about privacy and virtual identity as the issue du jour. From Brian K. Vaughan and Paolo Rivera’s Private Eye to Matt Spicer’s film Ingrid Goes West, there’s a lot being said about about the topic. With this debut issue, Image Comics’ No. 1 With A Bullet fits nicely into that conversation.
There are some ways in which this first issue is almost too slight, where it feels like writer Jacob Semahn could’ve gone further with his idea. The world is only marginally sci-fi (only the augmented reality/video recording contacts stand out as fantastical) and a large amount of the issue is just following our protagonist Nash Huang through her day, with little in the way of plot.
This is offset, however, by how comfortably Semahn establishes her voice, and the effect of this slow-burn structure means that when the other shoe drops at the end of the issue it has much more impact than it might have with more distracting details and action layered over the rest of the issue. We feel Nash’s terror more thoroughly because we know her more thoroughly.
What really makes the book sing, though, is Jorge Corona’s art. Corona’s style has always fit nicely alongside the likes of Babs Tarr, Khary Randolph and Humberto Ramos, in terms of super-stylized imagery that can also support darker and more mature content, and that ability is put to great use in this issue. And his layouts, especially at the beginning and end, highlight Nash’s disorietation and fear effectively. Jen Hickman’s colors amplify Corona’s art wonderfully; the neon colors effortlessly convey an LA-nightlife backdrop and the deep blacks hint at the danger and uncertainty underneath. It’s a very pretty and expressive book.
Taking your time with a story is always a risk, especially in comics; if you don’t do enough in the first issue, you can drive a lot of people away. No. 1 With A Bullet flirts with this. However, with a combination of smart characterization and dynamic art it overcomes that hurdle. The creative team has established a fun and flawed protagonist who seems primed for a comeuppance of Shakespearean proportions. Depending on how they escalate the story in future issues, this could wind up a great series when all is said and done.
P.S. Extra credit to both Jacob Semahn and guest contributor Tini Howard for their impassioned essays at the end, which drive home the horror at the heart of the story with a startling clarity.
Written by Jacob Semahn.
Art by Jorge Corona.
Colors by Jen Hickman.
Letters/design by Steve Wands.
7 out of 10