By Jonathan Edwards
My last experience with Ales Kot's work was dropping his series Wolf after issue #7. And, that's actually kind of funny to me. Because, that was the book that got me going back into my local comic shop for the first time in a few years. I had picked up the first issue the day it came out after I saw it advertised in an email from Comixology (which at that point I had only really used to get a few free comics). It was a decompressed and oblique read, but it was still interesting enough for me to want to come back for the next installment. Unfortunately, the more I read of it, the more Kot seemed to prioritize showing disparate elements of the world he'd created over tying together the plot threads he continued to introduce and leave hanging. And when some connections were finally made, it was too little, too late, and not satisfying. So like I said, I eventually dropped it. But at that point, I was already reading a few other books I'd found and decided to pick up as well when coming into the shop for Wolf. So like it or not, Ales Kot played a catalytic part in my relationship with comics. Without him, I very well might not be writing this review right now, and perhaps that's the biggest reason I wanted to look at Generation Gone.
Going in, I steeled myself for a similarly vague and meandering story, but this one is pretty straightforward so far. At 50-some pages, it's still decompressed as all hell, but there's no question what all is going on. In fact, I might even go as far as saying that this first issue is a little bit too predictable. Not so much in the beginning pages, but it's pretty clear by the halfway point, and I already knew more or less what the last 10 or so pages would entail before I read them. Does this all make for a bad beginning and/or issue? Not at all. Kot does a pretty good job offsetting the typicality of his story beats by including a decent amount of character development between each one. The end product is one that functions well enough if not all that excitingly.
In terms of qualms, I only have a couple, but they are pretty prominent in my mind. First is Mr. Akio, who's characterized as little more than the cliché scientist who thinks he knows better than his superiors, eschewing orders and permissions for the sake of his experiment. Furthermore, I don't really buy the whole "everything is code" concept that Kot is using for the foundation of Asio's work. At least, not yet. At the moment, it's feeling like a pretty thinly veiled contrivance, but perhaps further elaboration will help it sit better. Second, Nick is a fuck. I know he's supposed to be, and I'm sure it'll eventually be revealed to everyone else how abusive he's being to Elena. However, the big problem I have here is that we are thrown right into the abuse. Any decent person is going to read what Nick says, be appalled, and want him to get shit for it. But, he doesn't. Elena doesn't realize her relationship is abusive yet, so she just accepts it. Not only is this counterintuitive to us empathizing with Elena, but it also serves to both normalize the abuse and victimize Elena. Honestly, I'm not sure why Kot opted to include this scene in the final draft. It doesn't really add anything, and we really don't need two major abuse emotional abuse scenes. Yes, there's another one, and it probably would've been far more powerful to just hint at their unhealthy relationship and let us build to that later one.
Araujo's art, on the other hand, is great. Strong use of negative space gives everything a particularly minimalistic and bare feeling, helped by his clean pencils and precise inks. An added level of starkness comes from the bold use of colors. It's a really good sign when the best panels in a book are the ones without any dialog or narration over them.
All in all, I do have to say that Kot has me interested. This one's a little run-of-the-mill, and it does have its problems. But, there is a certain something about Generation Gone that is resonating with me. Could it be that I am, by definition, a millennial, and that's this book's target demographic? Could it be because of my history with Kot, and this series already feels substantially different from Wolf? Could it be that I'm just kind of interested to see a superhero story take place in this world, especially when Image's description refers to "multiple trips to the sun," and for whatever reason that inherently sounds Silver Age-y to me? If I had to guess, I'd say it's a mixture of all three and then some. I'm not 100% hooked yet, but I'll definitely picking up the next one. In conclusion, I do want to reiterate and emphasize that there are some depictions of outright emotional abuse on display here. It's rough material, and it hits you right out of the starting gates. So, I'd recommend you only check this out for yourself if you're comfortable (at least, as comfortable as someone can be) with experiencing such content.
Writer: Ales Kot
Art: Andre Lima Araujo
Colorist: Chris O'Halloran
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller
Editor: Lizzie Kaye
Publisher: Image Comics