This was an entertaining issue, but it left me with concerns. Some of which I will address later on in the review and will definitely be considered spoilerish in nature. Overall though the issue was enjoyable and I definitely want to go back and read the first volume because of this issue. That is because this is technically the second volume of Aron Warner’s Pariah, the first volume having been released on the last day of last year (12/31/13). To get your first question out-of-the-way, no you do not have to have read the first volume to know or understand what is going on in this story. Sure there are some questions, but I didn’t find that I had any more or less after reading any other first issue so don’t be intimidated because of that.
The issue jumps right into a situation on an expired space station. We find teenagers, just normal looking teenagers wearing street clothes and looking more like they belong in high school than on a space station. They’re a group of Vitros, kids that have been genetically experimented on and the results are altered brain function. We don’t know the extent of this yet but it’s clear that most of them are smart… scary smart.
With the current situation of the space station not being prepared for their survival and basically a casket orbiting earth, the group is unhappy at the moment to say the least. A dude by the name of Hyde has taken the fall for the problems and his pseudo leadership has been stripped from him.
As we take this all in the story is narrated by Herman Toulane. Like most people his thoughts are well guarded as his narration rarely resembles what he speaks or the emotions (or lack of them) that he wears on his face. Herman walks us through what makes him different from other Virtros; why they (the other Virtos) were being turned in by family or captured while on the run, Herman turned himself in because he didn’t want to be at his home anymore. At first it was a blessing to be with others Virtros and that being together should have united them… but it didn’t. Now he’s not sure which is worse, his old home or his space casket.
The story continues and things get even worse for our space jettisoned Vitros as they begin to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at a rate and speed that will cook them alive. It’s up to Herman and his friend to save the ship… at least for now.
Here’s where the SPOILER comes into play. I liked this book a lot, but I think my favorite character may have just been killed. My understanding of the first volume is that the story jumps from character to character trading off the narration with each jump. That means that Herman wasn’t likely to be narrating the next issue, but damn… now he’s gone anyway.
Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt do a wonderful job with Herman’s narration; he talks very intelligently, but his thoughts are of a teenager and that made him very relatable. His thoughts on his home life is I’m sure relatable to a lot of people, but more so I think is dealing with the disappointment from a group of friends.
Aside from Herman’s narration, Warner and Gelatt keep a fast paced story going. It’s not Apollo 13 intense, but it’s up there. Really what keeps it from being too frantic is Herman. Even without the knowledge of the first volume this issue is approachable and catches the reader up on the world while working through the problem at hand.
The star of the show for me was Brett Weldele’s art and lettering. The art and lettering are very reminiscent of Ben Templesmith’s work; whereas Templesmith tends to exaggerate portions and make ugly characters, Weldele keeps his character looking realistic and intentionally average looking. Really if you changed the stylized coloring this could look like a more traditional comic book, but that would spoil what makes it visually interesting. The coloring gives it a distinct look making it very memorable. The lettering also plays a key part of the story as the word bubbles are in all white and black and the narration is in all black and white. It comes across as an intentional contrasts which again shows that people’s thoughts and actual spoken words are different.
I’m definitely curious for more of this series. I have plenty of time to check out the first volume in the meantime, but I really hope that the series manages to present a new character for me to like. Herman may not have been an outgoing, outspoken character, but his narration was honest and relatable. If you’re looking for a teen drama that’s not quite the X-Men, but has strong elements inspired by it, then look no further than Pariah.
Writers: Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt Artist: Brett Weldele Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/26/14