This series has been incredibly difficult for me to review since it’s been very abstract and open to the reader’s interpretation at times. Also the underlining fact that there is a mystery to solve makes it difficult to speak of without giving away too much and spoiling it. That being said, we’re on the fourth issue and ready or not I’m talking about this damn book finally. This series began as Oni Press’ Free Comic Book Day title and that’s something I’ve always admired. They are the only company that for two years running, have given away the first issue of a series. Not a reprint, but a first print and that’s when I began reading this series. The story follows a boy named Melvin that is obsessed with spontaneous combustion, so much so that he can almost certainly determine when someone is going to combust. This issue sees him locked in jail as several combustion deaths have been pinned on him due to his childhood. In his youth he discovered a voice that talked to him and allowed him to create fire. Because of this he’s suspect number one when others start turning up burned to a crisp and he was found near the crime scene.
Melvin has two friends in the world, one is a nosey free press reporter that suspects him and doesn’t at the same time. She decides to help him by visiting an old man that ran a company that’s tied to all of the deaths. The old man seems to be able to control electricity and kills an orderly while she’s interrogating him. His second friend is Kenny and he is a shitty friend. It turns out that Kenny may have been working against Melvin and definitely hasn’t been up front and honest with him about the combustion.
Joe Harris’ last project with Oni, Ghost Projekt, followed a similar storytelling pattern of building a mystery and then dealing with the reveal for the last several issues. That seems to be the same thing happening here which means we’ve got two more issue until our happy ending. Where Ghost Projekt failed, Spontaneous succeeds in that the characters are likeable and realistic. The idea of the story is interesting so far, but we’ve yet to see the payoff of the idea.
The art is what really sells this book as it gives it a very distinct look as artist Brett Weldele uses water colors for the entire series. It gives everything a very Templesmith look to it, but Weldele’s style is much cleaner and different. The characters look like they belong in a comic book, but in a very realistic setting. It’s a great style and Weldele is sure to move on to other projects after Spontaneous comes to a close.
Can I whole heartily recommend this book? No. It’s very niche and the appeal is to a small portion of the comic community, but its existence is important for that reason. If all comic books were able to hit a wide appeal then they would be boring. As it stands Spontaneous is a book that has very average elements mixed with above average elements as well.
Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Brett Weldele
Publisher: Oni Press