I was sent a PDF of this one by writer Sam Read, who wrapped up his miniseries Exit Generation last year and caught the attention of Comixtribe. A one-shot story drawn and coloured by Alex Cormack, this relates the story of a young boy, who meets a strange creature from outer space one night, in the woods. It was quite charming, actually, and I wanted to do a quick review of it as soon as I finished the last page.
All pages of art here are from an unlettered preview I found on Cormack’s website.
The story is a simple one, really. A young boy called Teddy lives with his family, who don’t pay any attention to him, and lives a fairly introverted life. This is established quickly, pushing the necessary colour to the start of the book and allowing the series to go off in a more unpredictable direction sooner rather than later. Read, perhaps aware that this part of the book isn’t particularly important, puts in a disorientating dream sequence on the second page of the issue, which allows the reader to wash over the conventional home-life introduction.
Teddy wanders into the woods, is the important part, and meets a creature from outer space which seems to have the ability to emulate anything it is shown. Teddy, a comic-book fan, promptly shows it some pages of his favourite hero, and the creature starts to do some wondrous things. Set around this one night only, the book seems to draw a fairly obvious inspiration from The Iron Giant, with the young boy relating a surprising experience which went on to shape and improve his life. This leads to a really touching final page, which nicely clips the book together and gives it a strong and satisfying climax.
The first, most striking aspect of the book is Cormack’s work as colourist. He switches style two or three times throughout the story, but has to spend most of the issue on a single sequence set at night. That’s not an easy job to do, but the digital colouring works to brilliant effect throughout, concentrating a piercing, unnatural light around the Teddy’s torch, which blinds the reader and allows Cormack to hide parts of the story as fits the narrative best.
When Teddy interacts with the creature, the colours distract tremendously from the story itself, creating an otherworldy effect which helps boost the sequence. At the core, this is a pretty simple story to tell – it’s the presentation which elevates it. Cormack’s sequencing is decent, if a little rough in places, and it’s hard to tell sometimes if his art is deliberately being difficult or he’s simply not quite established a scene. The nature of the story helps paper over that difference, to the point where I couldn’t tell, myself, and the optimist in me suggests he’s doing this on purpose.
The creature has a faintly creepy but also reassuring design, and the light radiating off it bounces around each panel and throw all kinds of textures on Teddy’s face. The colouring really helps the character feel more expressive, and the shadows cast across the pages set up a prolonged sense of atmosphere. When a third character enters the scene, things become a little more predictable and shallow, but the artwork looks past that and skips the reader past any sense of cliche.
One small disappointment was that Cormack sets up a conceit where each page has a tight white gutter around, which only the creature ever breaks through – this happens a few times at the start, but then falls away towards the end. The trick works so well when it is used, and it’s a bit of a shame that it isn’t kept up throughout.
Read’s script shows more confidence than on Exit Generation, and he paces the story very nicely indeed. His framing sequence doesn’t overrun at either end of the book – a common mistake made by writers – and he knows when to sit on a moment and when to race past one. Teddy at times feels a little like a cipher, as perhaps would be expected in the situation he finds himself within, but the structure of the comic means that the final few pages flesh him out properly and give more context back to the pages gone by.
He cuts down the dialogue significantly during the sequence in the woods, not overdoing things too much. When the third character shows up and the plot goes in a more predictable direction, he does still manage to maintain the tone of the early pages, and gives the story consistency. Something about the book, when I finished it, stuck with me. There’s an element of sentimentality which is incredibly well-played into the issue, as it didn’t hit me until right at the end that Read was doing a take on the Spielberg mythos. There’s a moral at the end, which you don’t realise you’re playing along with until Read slips it in on the final page.
As someone who grew up with E.T. and all those other family-friendly movies of the 80s and 90s, I really connected with the comic and found it to be quite charming. It’s slight, certainly, but it’s got a real sense of heart to it and it has something to say. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cover, and then each of the first few pages threw me for a different kind of loop. But, once everything settled in and the actual story started to unfold, I was really impressed by the way the creative team chose to tell the story.
It’s a fun issue.