In my lifetime I have read well over 15,000 comic books. The point of telling you this is not to brag, but to give context of my next statement… it’s hard to surprise me. There are always twists and turns, but rarely is there an idea that is so different that I say to myself, “I wish I had thought of it first.” Book four of Leftovers begins the storyline “The War for Kaleb” which is a three-part story, which will mean something by the end of this review. There is plenty to address about this issue, but the first and most glaring is the superhero on the cover. Instantly your mind has already determined what this book must be, contain and read like, but you would be absolutely wrong. Before I get into that let’s talk about Kaleb the main character and before we talk about “light” Kaleb that we see on the front cover wearing blue and yellow.
Kaleb suffers from an anxiety disorder, one that forces him to take pills basically for the rest of his life in order to live a “normal” life. In that regard you may instantly think that this book is then going to be like last year’s Boom Studios title Polarity, because pills and superheroes right? Well again, you’re wrong.
Now let’s back up at the beginning of the issue as we see Kaleb going through the motions, he gets up and gets ready for work and then commutes to his job via the subway. All the while light Kaleb is standing watch over him, but never interacting. On this particular day he meets Addison. From there we flash-forward months in to their relationship at a party to introduce the couple to each other’s friends and this is used to set up and establish where Kaleb and Addison’s relationship is currently.
It’s after this that we learn that Kaleb has an anxiety disorder when his friend Mike asks if he’s told Addison yet. Now here’s the surprise, because a third Kaleb shows up wearing red and black. So what’s up with these different Kalebs? Well the first one represents Kaleb’s personality on pills, looking out for him and even possibly leading him to his relationship with Addison. When he begins to doubt that relationship because he doesn’t know if it’s the pills or his real feelings… that’s when “dark” Kaleb shows up.
The story very much so reminded me about the old Native American tale about two dogs fighting, some days the good dog wins and some days the bad dog wins. Here though those dogs are represented by comic book superhero and supervillain and it’s pretty brilliant. At one point Kaleb goes off his pills and we see these two other Kalebs begin to fight and it is a visual representation of the battle happen inside of him. The pills versus his disorder and as the hero and villain do battle and damage their surroundings it can be viewed as the damage it is doing to Kaleb psychologically.
There is more I want to say about the story, but to really drive home the impact of the scene and issue I have to talk about the art. The entire story is in black and white with the exception of light Kaleb and dark Kaleb. I don’t know why Jason Pittman made the decision for the book, but it was one of the single greatest decisions he could have made.
While Pittman’s style is detailed it isn’t photorealistic, the black and white nature gives it a real-world vibe. The details that he puts into the world, especially the city, make Kaleb’s life very real. His journey to work could be your own. Essentially the black and white highlights his mundane and average existence which makes the battle of his personality all the more spectacular.
Since light and dark Kalebs are in color they stand out, but because they stand out so much they don’t seem real. They break the mold of a superhero story by coming across as the thing that stands out the most, but in a non-realistic way. In one hand it almost shows you just how ridiculous the concept is, but in the other hand it shows what a great piece of fiction they can be.
This is a simple and yet complex story and that’s what makes it so damn great. It’s hard to surprise me and it’s even harder to impress me to the point that this story did. The crazy thing about it, the truly crazy thing… is that I didn’t know that there were two more parts of the story until after I had read it. Even though this issue doesn’t resolve the entire story, the ending was so satisfying that it could have just stopped there. I think that says a lot about a comic when it can leave so much open and yet the reader is satisfied with what’s there.