I'd like to take a moment to pull back the brightly colored, friendly facade of comic books and reveal the seedy underbelly that lies beneath. That's right, in a fit of journalistic integrity I am revealing the dark secret at the center of comic books. That secret is as follows: there is almost no content in a single issue. A single issue is 24 illustrated pages which give you at best a small handful of character moments and story beats. As such the first issue of a series is not a TV pilot or a first chapter, it's a fragment. Some first issues try to circumvent this limitation by cramming their first issues full of mysteries, world-building, and spectacle, others, like Snow Blind #1 rely on the readers patience with, in this case, mixed success. Author Ollie Masters (best known for The Kitchen) brings an assured voice to Snow Blind as he introduced Teddy Ruffin, an angst-ridden youth with a penchant for breaking into libraries. His relationship with his brutish but not unreasonable father is strained at best. Teddy, in an effort to connect with, or as is obliquely hinted, annoy, his father, posts an embarrassing photo online. This photo becomes a problem when it turns out that Teddy's family is secretly in witness protection and he may have outed them.
The issue is told primarily through first person narration, which in the case of a crime comic often makes for a clichéd, overwrought read. Fortunately, Masters has a light touch and wisely begins the book with a self-aware joke about the yellow prose novel that Teddy is reading ('It's not exactly Chandler...' he muses). Similarly, Teddy's spouting of teenage sentiments about how little his family understands him would be grating if Masters wasn't aware of exactly which sorts of clichés he is playing into. While it's not reached in issue one, Snow Blind seems to be building towards a grand subversion of some sort in which the opinions of our bookish lead are shown to be limited and unimportant in the wider world.
While this attention to tone keeps Snow Blind from feeling rote, a slow pace coupled with a minimalistic style make it a breezy, insubstantial read. This might prove to be problematic since Snow Blind is only a four issue mini, leaving a lot of ground to be covered in the upcoming three issues. This worry may well prove to be unfounded but as a single issue, Snow Blind is not quite a satisfyingly story.
Adding to this unfinished aspect of Snow Blind is Tyler Jenkins rough, scribbly art. While the illustrations are moody and occasionally pretty, the lack of detail and messy backgrounds distract from the story. Specifically, Jenkins often renders faces as little more a few dots and lines, giving the impression of a flat, depthless character. The coloring style is in an often beautiful watercolor style that does Jenkin's work a number of favors but sadly can't add detail or atmosphere to a number of pages that seem far too devoid of detail and visual interest. All that likely sounds more negative than it should. Snow Blind is an entertaining read with a fast pace and a good sense of character. The question is whether four issues it can turn these good characteristics into a fully realized story. As of one, I remain unsure.
Snow Blind #1 Writer: Ollie Masters Artist: Tyler Jenkins Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/9/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital