There’s much to be desired once you reach page 26 of Kurtis Wiebe’s new series Pisces.The first issue opens abruptly, prompts more questions than it answers, and closes on a note of ambiguous confusion. It’s not an easy premiere to get through, and if this were the television world it would probably end up as an unaired pilot. However, the strength of this #1 doesn’t come from its content, it comes from its promise.
Promoted as a sci-fi, body horror series, the first issue lacks a considerable amount of both genres. Instead, the focus of the story so far can be more accurately described as psychological thriller. Dillon, the presumed main character, faces a series of flashbacks in this book, chronicling his drunkenness and failed relationships, as well as a harrowing Vietnam War experience. Both memories are vividly real, captured well by artist Johnnie Christmas and colorist Tamra Bonvillain. They explore both the emptiness of a man with nothing to lose, and the graphically violent reality of war.
The grounding element to all this chaotic exposition is a total of four pages that cover Dillon’s (current?) predicament. In between the cold rainy night of the first flashback, and the near drowning Dillon survives in Vietnam, are two pages of Dillon floating through space; pulled from one memory, through the universe, and into another. The transition happens so seamlessly, we wonder if he really is in space; the only tell being the quick glimpse of planets highlighted in small panels. At the close of the issue, that transition happens again. As Dillon rushes to escape the Vietnamese jungle, the water he wades into disappears beneath him, and we see that he’s actually floating among the stars, a space suit and some tethered ropes are the only things keeping him from drifting into the abyss.
The final page of the issue is where the promise of horror slowly seeps into the reader. Up until this point, the action in each flashback snowballs into a mounting testosterone fueled, blood-pumping time bomb. In the first, Dillon, in a drunken rage, squares off with a hospital doctor, the latter pummeling him without much effort. Each blow Dillon takes is almost tangible. The panel’s momentum and the art that shapes it propel us from scene to scene. When we move to the second flashback the down-pouring rain drawn into the memory of Vietnam also contributes to this sense of ongoing motion and stimulation. Coupled with intense violence, these scenes don’t stop flooding the reader with sensory overload until the last page. As Dillon drifts in the quiet void of space, we’re left to wonder: is this the horror of the story? Dillon reliving his worst memories as he faces an unforeseeable future? Both his current predicament, and the memories highlighted from his past, complete one another as moments of uncontrollable fate. I’m interested to see where the story goes from here, and learn more details of how Dillon has gotten to where he is.
Wiebe’s detail for highlighting complex characters is somewhat lost in this issue, given the sporadic nature of the introductory scenes, however, I highly doubt it will be absent in those following. Although Dillon’s likability is hindered by his outright violence, we’re treated to moments where glimpses of a man once innocent shine through. Captured so well by Christmas and Bonvillain visually, the moment he discovers he’s a father and his guttural reaction to a bullet ridden body prove that there is a character worth exploring in the series.
This series debut toys with deep emotions and delivers a sense of foreboding things in store for Dillon, who looks like he’s only just begun this journey with us. If you find yourself on the other side of the door like I am, you’ll be interested in sticking around for Issue #2, if only out of sheer curiosity and the setup of things to come.
Pisces is published by Image Comics, and #2 is due out May 27th. It’s written by Kurtis Wiebe, with art by Johnnie Christmas, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettering by Ed Brisson.
*Disclaimer: I received one copy of this comic for review purposes only*