Chris Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa are quite literally writing the book on mountain-climbing adventure comics right now. They’ve taken a story that sounds like some zany 8-pager from a pulp magazine with a name like Argosy (secret agents on Everest? Con men? Summiting the mountain? It has it all), and they’ve turned it into an examination of people literally at the brink in their own lives. This mountain is the end-all, be-all. Zan is no one’s role model. She’s a disgraced Olympian, which must actually be what it feels like to be a fallen angel. This book pushed her to the brink at least three or four issues ago, and now she’s living there, and occasionally falling off on one side or the other. She’s kicking her habit (kind of) and she’s finally committed to climbing Everest, after living in its shadow for years. And if that’s not a hell of a metaphor for someone who’s taken quite a fall, I don’t know what is. This issue in particular took a lot of parts of her safety nets and either cut them apart or left them just frayed enough to dissolve at any minute.
This issue is a tense read; it only took me fifteen minutes or so to read through it, dialogue-heavy though it tends to be. And a quick read here is not a bad thing. There’s plenty of character development in this issue, and Zan is finally in the orbit of the black ops team holding her mentor, Haskell, hostage. It feels like the end of the part of the book where they live in the shadow of the mountain, preparing, and the beginning of the part where they’re actively fighting the mountain, the black ops team, each other, themselves, etc. Zan loses a lot in this issue, and it’s always fun to see how low Sebela and Mustafa can take her before she fights her way back up. She’s scrappy that way.
The thing that constantly surprises me about High Crimes is Moustafa’s artwork. It is always, always, always beyond reproach, but I feel like I never hear about the guy doing anything else. Sebela’s doing this, Ghost with Kelly Sue DeConnick, Alien v. Predator, and he’s got Dead Letters coming up, and that’s just off the top of my head. Moustafa must be pouring his entire soul into this art, because he’s not wasting time on any other books; it feels like he really loves these characters and he wants to make them as real to us as possible. He knows when to pull back for a majestic mountain shot, and he knows when the best option is a close-up exchange. The guy’s killing it, and I can’t wait for him to start branching out to other books.
Is this a good issue to start with? No. Not even a little. But the fact that you can get the whole series up to and including this point for under six bucks means that you absolutely need to catch up. I get the feeling we just hit the very tip-top of the roller coaster, and we’re about to go down fast.
Writer: Chris Sebela Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa Publisher: MonkeyBrain Comics Price: $.99 Release Date: 1/22/14