By Patrick Wolf
I don’t know what to say about this one. I don’t want to praise it, but I also don’t want to chastise it either. Claiming it’s mediocre also isn’t fair since it certainly rises above your average run of the mill comic. That said, not by much.
The Signal follows ex-NASA employee, Annie, as she navigates herself through the shadowy world of alien encounters, political conspiracies, and public cover-ups. The story takes off when a former colleague sends her an encrypted message of a mysterious signal from space. Annie immediately knows what the signal is since she initially discovered it years ago. However, instead of getting the acclaim she deserves for making the sighting of the century, she soon finds herself fleeing for her life.
I gotta say, I have mixed feelings about this one. For the most part, I liked it, but there were a little too many story-telling tropes for me to fall in love with it. For one, the main character is still grieving over the untimely death of her mother. I get it, losing your parents sucks, but lets find some other traumatic back-story that doesn’t mimic old favorites like Batman, Iron Man, or Spiderman. Also, the main character has a drinking problem. What a shocker. Think of literally any other detective story out there. I understand Schwoer wants to flesh-out his characters by adding sub-plots that help develop them. I’d just like to see some character growth that doesn’t rely on the same, tired formulas.
Speaking of clichés, the central plot of The Signal is a sci-fi trope as well. We’re all familiar with the ‘WOW’ signal. Since then a lot of fictional literature has come out on this topic. Remember Independence Day? X-Files? Contact? The Arrival?
Where The Signal differs from the others, however, is in its use of mystery to keep us captivated. For one, we’re not really sure what the signal means. We’re told it’s a warning of some kind, but it’s not clear who sent the warning: Aliens? Humans? Future humans? Humans from another dimension? It’s these questions that really raise The Signal above its competition. I wanna know who sent the signal! I personally think it’s time travelers, but it could be any of the possibilities listed above—or even something else!
It’s this effective use of mystery that really makes this series shine. Even though I’ve taken issue with some of its elements, it’s this sense of the unknown that really makes me want to pick up the next copy. But that’s not the only aspect of The Signal that catches the eye: the artwork resonates just as much. Neil Anderson’s illustrations are crisp and cold and set to a tone that’s very appropriate for this genre. And Sean Callahan’s colors are clear and vibrant, but with a conscious respect for the dark undertones of the story.
I also like how the story moves along quickly. I can’t tell you how many comics I’ve read that just drag on and on and on. With Schwoer’s writing, I can tell he has a good sense of story structure. He immediately presents us with a clear goal and an eye-catching catalyst that’ll definitely make us want to pick up the next issue. I’m confident that by book #2, we’ll see the big event that will propel us into the second act—a task that I know is not easy to achieve.
All-in-all, while I’ve taken issue with some of the elements of The Signal, I like it just enough to give it a 4/5. That said, it just squeaks into this spot. Next issue I hope to see more factors that will convince me to be more confident in my rating. Until then, I look forward to what the signal has in store for us and recommend prospective readers to give it a try.
The Signal #1
Writer: Kevin Schwoer
Artist: Neil Anderson
Colors: Sean Callahan
Letters: Toben Racicot
Publisher: Abstruct Entertainment