Review: 50 Signal #1

With indie comics there are definite levels of quality. It’s undeniable. There are simply books that are better put together in terms of story and art. This is one of the biggest stigmas of indie comics because some people only stumble into the low-level area while others always find that sweet spot at the top. With Comic Bastards I hit all ends of the spectrum pretty constantly. I’ll have one book that I can see needed more time in its production and another that’s ready to steal some hearts and make die-hard fans. Nick Gonzo’s 50 Signal is ready to steal your heart and has already made at least one die-hard fan.

The strange thing about this first issue is that I loved it for two different reasons because in a way it is two different comics. There’s the feel good story about a genetically created spaceman and his genetically created spaceship flying the cosmos and exploring the universe. And then there’s what happens during the third act of the issue which I won’t spoil. I’ll just say that it changes everything and again, only made me love it more.

And I know I keep saying “love”, but it’s true. If this comic was a puppy I would hug it and play with it and nurture it always because it would be the best little puppy ever.

Nick Gonzo starts the story off by having our un-named spacemen narrate his life to us. We learn that he was in fact born for space as he was genetically engineered and so was his ship. They were made for each other and if that’s not cute or cool enough the ship used to sing to him when they were growing up which gives us this surrogate mother quality to the faceless ship.

50 SignalGonzo then walks us through what it is our spaceman does on his explorations and it’s clear that he loves his job. He loves exploring and filling book upon book with information. Gonzo cleverly lays out the “rules” of the world for us. Now at first I thought this was just a story device to explain our spaceman’s job so that he could go on adventures carefree for the rest of the issue and series. At the end though, I realized it was something more. It was programing or maybe even a moral code and our new story element was about to challenge this code.

That’s really the brilliance of this book, Gonzo builds it as this light carefree space exploration story about this wonderfully simple spaceman that’s full of excitement. But by the end it’s beginning to develop into a complex story and that carefree opening isn’t what it seems to be. It’s not a bait and switch though it’s just a changing of perspectives which is incredibly hard to get right.

The artwork is stylized and simple. Simple is not a bad thing, to me it just means that it’s clean. The linework isn’t excessive and in the case of 50 Signal it’s almost cartoonish. Really it’s the style I’m seeing more and more for young adult graphic novels which is all the rage right now; frankly put, simple is good. It’s also full of creativity. From the wild animals we’re shown, to the giant alien. Gonzo makes you believe in this new world that he’s created.

My one and only criticism is the lettering. There’s a few times towards the end that it became hard to read and almost stole from the impact of the scene. The last page in particular had some spacing problems, but this is really minor, minor stuff. If it’s fixed on future issues it will just serve to elevate this series more.

There are comics that you want to continue reading and you can wait a month or even longer to pick up again. Then there are comics that you want more of right this very minute. Waiting a month or even a week is just too damn long. Because while this book is a puppy, it makes you a gluttonous monster unable to quench your appetite while you wait for more. I need more of 50 Signal and I need it right fucking now.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Nick Gonzo Publisher: Madius Comics Price: £3.00 Release Date: Soon! Website