By Dustin Cabeal
The concept for Crowded has been staring us all in the face for years. I’m surprised I haven’t read a hundred comics with the idea, but then that goes to show how talented Christopher Sebela is as a storyteller. Because he pulled this idea from the collective ether and got it made.
The cover is confusing in that it seems like a buddy adventure in which one of the characters isn’t taking things too seriously. It’s far more complex than that as we meet Charlie, she’s the one in grey with pink hair and those amazing shorts and thigh-high socks. Side note, I love that look. Yes, it’s a hot look, but it goes further than that in that it just screams awesome. It’s probably because of Clueless, but Charlie had my attention instantly.
The first page sets the tone for the story in which Charlie sits down in a dinner to meet another woman, who also was dressed fucking amazing since I’m taking the time to gush over clothing, something that I wish I had the opportunity to do more in comics, but most characters lack any sort of fashion sense. Anyway, their exchange is short as a janitor with a shotgun makes an appearance behind Charlie and Vita lays waste to him. From there they start walking through Charlie’s day which sounds tiring, but it lays the foundation for this not so distant future we find ourselves reading. Charlie uses a billion apps to make money, everything from AirBNB’ing her apartment to dog walking, to sitting with lonely old men in the park. She finally gets to the point in which an old lady approaches her and tries to kill her. Since then she’s been on the run.
The gist is that Charlie has a bounty on her head, via another app. There’re some great bits there so I won’t say how much and what not, but it’s clever. To ride out the 30-day bounty, she’s hired a bodyguard to protect her. Hence the story of Charlie and Vita begins.
There is a lot more going on in the story of course. Charlie is hiding something, and so is Vita. There’s also the strange fact that Charlie chose Vita based on her low customer rating. It’s not just, “who would want to kill Charlie,” which probably would have been interesting on its own, but with these other two, story elements present Crowded is sure to be high on drama.
Sebela’s writing is on point with this first issue. Yes, there’s a bit of shock and awe, something I’ve started to avoid in first issues because it usually leaves to sour second issues, but given how strong the premise is, it would be near impossible for the second issue to falter. The dialogue is wonderful, the banter and personalities all ring true. Neither character is annoying, and that’s saying something considering Charlie talks for 90% of the comic. They’re very different characters, but they fit together almost instantly. From the very first page, they come across as old friends more than strangers.
There is a quad of talent on the art. Ro Stein’s pencils are detailed and crisp. The backgrounds are rich and full of life giving the book a sense of reality rather than a flat story focused more on the dialogue than art. There’s a great level of detail to everything on the page. Ted Brandt’s ink gives a good balance to the linework, never too thick nor is it overkill. The coloring by Triona Farrell is vibrant and brings everything to life. There is a lot of pink, due to Charlie’s personality, but it's never overbearing or obnoxious. The lettering by Cardinal Rae brings it all home; again it’s pink and very “comic book tech” feeling, but not in an annoying way which is not usually how I type this sentence. Usually, it’s very annoying and feels out of place. There is an impeccable balance to the artwork which brings everything in the story to life and makes it enjoyable.
I’ve said this a few times, but there hasn’t been a lot of Image titles that I’ve been excited for lately. Crowded is interesting, not just the concept, but with its execution. The first issue comes out strong, but not so strong that it feels like the story can never top what it accomplishes here. Rather, I’m looking forward to more from this series and seeing how the thirty days pan out. To put it another way, Crowded may be the next big thing from Image.
Crowded vol. 1