In reviewing issue #2 of Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm’s Image book, Spread, I likened certain elements of the story to those found in Mad Max. In its third issue, that correlation is even stronger, with the author himself even bringing up the comparison. With that in mind, if you enjoy stories about the last remaining outposts of Man on the brink of an infectious end, you’re probably going to like Spread #3. As the lead characters of No, Molly and future narrator, baby Hope, come to a “barter town,” they (and, vicariously, we) experience what passes for civilization in this post-apocalyptic world, beset by an unstoppable amoebic doom. After hosing themselves off from the muck of travel, they come into contact with a host of societal pleasantries, like (no pun intended) widespread sexual depravity, not to mention poor culinary decisions, which include everything from spit-roasted woodland creatures to ... more sentient fare.
Things get as grimy, violent and quite literally as shitty as you might expect in such a place and on such a world, with an ending that folds in another layer on the crash of civilizations; but through it all, Jordan and his artistic team are somehow able to balance a feeling of resigned fate and nebulous terror with a great sense of levity, and even charm.
There are, for example, quite a number of bath scenes in this book - weird as that may be to bring up - but the tone between them oscillates between softness and horror beautifully. Visual praise here must go to Strahm, of course, but I also want to mention colorist Felipe Sobreiro, who helps define the tone expertly by brightening in pastels the familial bath time of our heroes, and conversely letting other, more fatal ablutions loom against black shadow.
Jordan introduces two new “main” characters this time around: Fat Jack and the town over which he presides as warlord and head chef. And as should be true with most stories of this nature, it is through them that we see an at-times smiling humanity which is arguably more terrifying than anything our heroes may face against the titular Spread. Not to say that a naked lady exploding in a fucked up helicopter of tentacles isn’t a learning experience, mind you.
Throughout this issue, Jordan approaches even the most disgusting corners of his universe with accessibility, and it’s a fun ride to learn the “rules” (if there are such things anymore) through Hope’s narration of No, who is a character I gravitate toward with each passing issue.
Regarding art, last time I called Strahm’s style a mix between Rob Guillory and Tradd Moore’s, and it’s a comparison that still holds true this issue, even beginning at its cover. If that’s not a visceral, unnerving take on Chew, I don’t know what is. Strahm is nothing if not inconsistent, though, populating his pages with what appear to be half-formed background throngs, as much as he does sharp and grizzly scenes of gore, like one of the most disturbing boob-grab scenes in the long, rich tradition of boob-grab scenes.
You can tell he’s still got growing room as an artist, but the skill and attention he shows in rendering things like the purple man, his horror scenes or his depiction of the Spread itself is on-point enough that I am more than willing to stay on and watch the evolution happen.
Regardless of all the different comparisons you can make with it, Spread is churning into a book I look forward to reading on the monthly, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Writer: Justin Jordan Artist: Kyle Strahm Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/10/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital