Comic Review: Debris #1

Debris #1
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Art by Riley Rossmo
Colors by Owen Gieni
Letters by Ed Brisson
Cover by Riley Rossmo
Image Comics
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Cover Price: $3.50

Riley Rossmo has seen the not too distant future and apparently, it’s a mod, mod world. Everyone is running around in these minimalist Barbarella-type space age circa 1960’s catsuit ensembles. Some even have capes like some fantasy Norwegian ski commercial and the entire village seems to favor tonal blue. The landscape is dystopian all right, but forgets Mad Max post urban warfare. These fabulous-looking people are in an arid desert planet being stalked by giant biomechanical animal-type creatures that look like medieval transformers called names like Umbras and Avios. Junk covers the landscape like a blanket (hence the title). Scraps of metal and whatever else is left are used in all sort of inventive ways contraption-wise. But, instead of looking like a junkyard, the colors by Owen Gieni add to the otherworldly quality of this mysterious landscape. Instead of shiny cyber metallic colors this is a world of dusty and dingy pastels that look worse for wear and keep themselves from looking too babyish. Color is its own character here, with even the umbras bleeding a vibrant shade of violet. Intrigued yet?

While the art would be enough to keep me interested even if the story does not live up to its initial potential, there’s quite a bit of ingenuity in the writing department as well. Sure, Kurtis J. Wiebe is relying a bit on the old standard Joseph Campbell-inspired hero yarn. There is a young heroine witch and older mentor who is suddenly “called” to be the leader of her village sooner than she thinks, which just so happens to be the last village. Regardless, our heroine Maya is a strong protagonist with a quiet dignity that I am already rooting for. If only I could figure out what they were all doing. For a first issue it’s a bit skimpy on the plot and character motivation, but there are so many elements here, I’m sure Wiebe was just trying to show us around his extremely nuanced little universe (I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew the origin story of every metal dragon-ostrich thingie the villagers have to fight) and give readers a taste for more.

There’s also an environmental and communal responsibility angles to this book already. The villagers repurpose old junk to create fantastical ancient-looking engineering equipment (which they power/run with their own svelte bodies rather than computers) to siphon water in a place where that is obviously a scarce resource. Humankind seems to have been driven to near extinction and the question is why is this village left is? Aside from when they are sieged by mechanical beasts, and there are great action adventure sequences for readers who like all that battling more than I do…the villagers seem to work side by side for a common purpose. I imagine that purpose is survival and regrowth and there are a few sequences showing villagers training to defend their village in Roman gladiator style outfits and similar period fighting styles. Again, I’m not really sure what those people are doing or why they look that way, or how society went back to the reference points in time this particular comic evokes, but it looks really cool.

The current state of pop culture has so much end of the world, dystopian stuff that I sometimes wish we could experience said apocalypse just to see what version is right. However, Debris should not be discarded simply because it covers well-worn scifi or fantasy themes. Genre writers seem to be trying to tell us something, by the thousands. Whether your world is coming to an end or not, there is a foundation here for a story that is styliash, but may have some substance to offer as well. The planet introduced in just the first issue is so deeply weird, vague, and eerily beautiful in a “junkpunk” aesthetic sort of way, I just want to see what happens to it. The inhabitants of the village may prove to be just as interesting in the future, and they at least already look great.

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