Narcopolis # 1
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by Jeremy Rock
As usual with an Avatar book the first thing you notice about it is the art. It’s standard Avatar artwork along the lines of Mike Wolfer. Someday Avatar are going to team a great writer with a great artist, but until then they’ll keep putting average yet cheap artists on their books and such is the case here. The best thing I can say about Jeremy Rock is that his art does the job. It tells the story as best he can and no more. Basic, standard, uninspiring artwork. Now, with the better Avatar books (Black Summer, Crecy) this can be overlooked but Narcopolis isn’t that good so it suffers from the art choice. Having said all that I did think the cover was really interesting, well designed and slightly surreal.
And in his defense I notice from Jeremy Rock’s blog that he makes a point of explicitly stating that issues 1 & 2 were digitally inked by Avatar and from issue 3 he’s inking himself. And seeing some of his inked pages it certainly helps. The digital inking takes fairly ordinary art and renders it flat, static and sterile. His penciled and inked pages are much better than the art in issue 1 and have a nice sense of life and an energy that was lacking in this first issue:
(Original pages from Jeremy Rock from Narcopolis # 3 – these are penciled and inked by Rock and have a bit more life in them than the art in issue 1, where Avatar has digitally inked his pencils)
Narcopolis is a future tale, where the populous is hooked up on designer, state provided drugs as a reward for their unquestioning loyalty and work towards the war effort with the unseen BadEvil. Our protagonist Gray lives a quiet life, stays clean when he can and reads his books, something that marks him out as different enough for investigation by the state’s TRUST agents. But there’s something else about him, a desire to know what lies behind the comfort of Narcopolis. After the visit by TRUST investigator Azure Love, something goes wrong and we see that everything in Narcopolis isn’t recreational drugs and a subservient populous. What are these psychestrikes and how do they infect and kill people seemingly at random? What’s TRUST? Why don’t they want annyone questioning their status quo? And why is our hero collecting maps outlining the world outside Narcopolis’ sterizone?
(Oh please. Interior page from Narcopolis # 1, written by Jamie Delano, art by Jeremy Rock, published Avatar)
To answer those questions I’m going to have to read issue 2. But on the basis of the first issue that just isn’t going to happen. There wasn’t anything particularly bad here, but neither was there anything that held my attention or piqued my interest. Just nothing at all that could tempt me to give up any more time reading subsequent issues. Delano’s writing here seems almost to be trying to hard to match some of the earlier brilliant work we know he’s capable of (Hellblazer as an obvious example).
The forced language (BadEvil, psychestrike, Mamadream Pharmatrance and so on) tries to inject some exotic quality to a flat, uninspiring story yet fails. I’ve seen at least one review compare it to the future feel that Warren Ellis shot through Transmetropolitan, but to my mind it’s got none of the brilliance of that particular book. It was nothing more than okay I’m afraid.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.