Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson go an awfully long way in their new one shot, Genesis, to say pretty much nothing at all. Before I get real mean up in here, I do want to say I’m impressed that Image is doing this kind of thing. This is a very strange, superhero-less, 70-page comic book by two people who are definitely up-and-coming but maybe not quite there yet, and one of the biggest publishers right now is taking a chance on it. It’s not a huge risk, but it’s still a risk that deserves to be acknowledged as something that can only be good for the artistic expansion of the industry.
Having said that, the last time I was this bored listening to someone talk about the power of mankind to create and destroy, I was either reading God Loves, Man Kills (that’s right, bitches, come at me), or I was a sophomore in high school taking care of one of my friends who got too stoned to deal before we went to a football game. The story and the dialogue are literally at that level of assured preachiness and have absolutely no point. It’s a problem that happens a lot in political discourse; people present an extremely old idea in a new way and it is lauded by the people who already laud that kind of thing, and decried by people with a record of decrying. It adds nothing but fuel to a debate that should have been allowed to go out.
Genesis is a comic with an interesting conceit that ends up turning into a philosophical debate (for 40 pages; we’re encroaching on Ayn Rand territory here) between a man, another man who looks like Spider Jerusalem with no shades, tats or shoes, and a bear. Yeah, you heard me. The bear is the best part, but what do I know, right?
The writing of the issue, as stated above, is tepid, repetitive and cyclical in the worst way. In a story that ends right where it started, you have to take your characters on a huge journey to make it worth a damn. If the story starts with a man hanging a painting and at the end he hangs the same painting, he has to lose the painting, change as a person, assign meaning to the act of hanging the painting, be thwarted from rehanging it, etc, before he finally gets the damn thing back up. In Genesis, the main character (Adam—obvs) just plays a silly game of words in a surrealistic landscape for 40 pages.
The surrealistic landscapes, though. Let’s talk about those. Sampson is on top of her game when she’s drawing wonked-out dreamscapes in this book. It’s like Minecraft on metric tonnages of LSD. Her characters are where she needs to direct some focus, however. There are a handful of scenes in the book where the characters are actually feeling things, but to me as a reader, they come off as cold, distant, and unchanging. It makes me a lot less willing to engage in Adam’s quasi-theological discussions if I can’t hang on to the emotional beats to get me through.
Genesis is described on the back by a professor of comic studies as “allegorical.” That may be what’s tripping me up; I don’t do well with allegorical in the printed word. The Prophet, The Bible, etc... most of it goes over my head. I don’t know if I’m just not doing the work to dig, and that may well be the case. Maybe this is the kind of issue that gets better on the second read through. Who knows. All I can say is that it wasn’t working for me the first time, and that makes me extremely unlikely to go back and page through at my leisure.
Writer: Nathan Edmondson Artist: Allison Sampson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $6.99 Release Date: 4/16/14 Format: One-Shot, Print/Digital