Review: Symmetry #1

If you'll indulge me for a moment, I'd like to suggest some log lines for Top Cow's new sci-fi book Symmetry.  I am no marketer, but I think these would get the book's content across succinctly. Symmetry: Utopia has boob windows, Symmetry: I can't believe it's not Divergent, Symmetry: welcome to the uncanny valley, Symmetry: A choose your own gender story!  If Top Cow decides to use any of those, I will expect a hefty paycheck, but as that seems unlikely, let's just discuss Symmetry #1. As you have probably gathered by now, I am not a fan of Symmetry, but before going into why, I should state, as is the case with most first issues, it's very hard to judge where the book might end up. This issue is mostly exposition (far too much in fact) and table-setting, and its possible things could turn around as the story gets going.  Anyway, this first issue serves mainly to set up the book's world: a robot-run utopia where famine, war, and all forms of hostility have been annihilated through as of yet unexplained means. As is always the case such fictional utopias, there is a dark secret at the core of this society which author Matt Hawkins is very anxious to get to it.

Symmetry-#1-1Hawkin's strategy in setting up the world of Symmetry seems to be to have our main character Michael simply state facts about the world.  He constantly spouts lifeless lines like "Relationships are purely for reproductive purposes" and “I was born a sexless baby like everyone else". It is possible this is an attempt to bring across the bland perfection of the world by having the character be emotionless and dull, but it comes across as forced exposition that is often silly to read.  It doesn't help that no detail of the world is particularly original or unexpected: everyone wears white, is good-looking, and lives peacefully while robots do all the hard work (the basic set up of most YA fiction coincidentally).

The rushed attempt to setup this status quo is of course so that it can be broken by the end of the issue. Michael witness a violent satellite crash leading to the depowering of the robot population and a shocking societal revelation. This shocking reveal, like many elements of the book, is undermined by some goofy dialogue.  Perhaps this would be forgivable if we were given a reason to care about Michael himself, but we are given no reason to think he is anything beyond a bland unimaginative drone. He seemingly has no inner life nor even apparent hobby. In fact, I remain unclear what Michael even does in this utopian world--does he have a job or is commenting on the state of utopia a paid position?

Admirably attempting to lend the world of Symmetry some personality is artist Raffaele Lenco whose polished, three-dimensional art looks like a mix of Esad Ribic and Mike Deadoto.  Lenco sells the idea of a perfect world by giving a wholesome but unsettling sheen to everything (ever surface appears to be brand new and perfectly lit). Further, he gives a creative design to the worker robots who have hulking torsos but spindly delicate arms.  Sadly, there is one major downside to Lenco's work: his people. The faces are rendered realistically (almost like photographs run through a filter) which makes the cartoonish facial expressions range from goofy to monstrous. The body language of each character is stiff; scenes of movement look posed and uncomfortable.

As such, Lenco's art is occasionally gorgeous, but cannot overcome the stiff awkwardness of Hawkins' writing. And without a reliable character writer or artist, one is left to notice some of the other, more minor negative aspects of the comic. Two scenes depict women in superfluously sexual attire or positions, the way in which an opening chase scene is supposed to connect the rest of the plot is never made clear, the fonts of a number of text boxes and sound effects are cartoonishly out of place with Lenco's ultra-sleek style, and so on and so forth.  All in all, the book is simply bad and not in any exciting or entertaining way.  While it is possible the book will improve as it goes on, after one issue I am not sure I will stick around to find out.

Score:  1/5

Symmetry #1 Author: Matt Hawkins Artist: Raffaele Lenco Publisher: Image/Top Cow Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/9/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital