In reading and reviewing issue four of Justin Jordan and Kyle Stahm’s Spread, I can’t help but feel a bit disconcerted; not least because it features a crazy bald lady vividly ripping someone’s throat out, or because a group of characters explode in a tentacular spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, though, those are certainly disconcerting elements. But mostly, I find myself unnerved because this is the second book this week that I’ve reviewed which deals with sentient viruses. In a world currently rife with Ebola-Mania, its like comic books are trying to tell me something. “Wrap it up, Steve,” I can hear them whispering. “Actually,” it pauses, “better double bag that. I know where you’ve been.” Wow, stay out of my personal life, comics. Also, the doctor is optimistic that this ointment should clear it up.
Anyway, one of the best things about this post-apocalyptic book that follows a worldwide Lovecraftian infection is that in each issue, some amount of shit hits the fan. Spread #4 is no exception. As the tyrants who lord over their respective last bastions of civilization in this world, the flaxen-haired pretty boy, Ravello, and the bulbously-bellied ginger, Fat Jack, tentatively join forces in a prisoner exchange (of sorts) that would put No, Hope and Molly squarely within the clutches of the diabolical Ravello.
The kerfuffle that ensues reveals further evidence of both Molly and No’s varying shades of badassery, while also adding a new worrying wrinkle into the evolution of the titular Spread itself; and to call it a fangorious effort would be an understatement.
Like I’ve said before, this story doesn’t necessarily bring anything new, acting as more of an amalgam of different things we’ve seen elsewhere, and it does suffer somewhat from a decent dollop of cliché. The way Molly goes “crazy,” for example, may anger some readers who have grown tired of the “presumed rape” device, while all the grandstanding (be it heroic or villainous) also feels weathered. In fact, if you’ve read a comic book like Walking Dead or seen a movie like Mad Max (which I know I’ve brought up several times in reviewing this book), none of this plot will surprise, even when the big “twist” comes near its end.
And yet, Spread still remains a fun read. Sure it’s simple and familiar, but perhaps because of that easy-digestibility, I continue to enjoy both its premise and, I suppose, comfortable tone. It may not be breaking any new ground, but there’s something to be said about hanging out in a well-worn haunt.
However, at least in terms of freshness, the star of this show continues to be Strahm’s art. Whether it’s in the rendering of rending entrails, or simply just the way he sketches his figures like poured rubber over ill-fitting, lipless masks, his world and all the unfortunates who populate it will make you feel uneasy, and at the same time leave you wanting more. He’s perfect for this book, and it’s great that Jordan is taking a back seat to let his visuals shine.
As the writer himself notes in the back matter, the middle of a run like this is always going to be problematic, but I think the team here is doing well enough in throwing a fresh pair of paint on a tried-and-true canvas. In that, I wouldn’t call Spread #4 an absolute must, but it’s also most definitely not a bust, and I for one am staying aboard to see it through.
Writer: Justin Jordan Artist: Kyle Strahm Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 11/5/2014 Format: Print/Digital