3 out of 5
I read a lot of comics, and I wish I could read more. I wish I could read more books, and watch more movies, but comics are the easiest wish of that lot to fulfill, because they don’t require as much of a time investment on my behalf. There’re also plenty within easy reach, thanks to digital platforms – both from the point of view of my ease as a purchaser, and from those of creators who now have the option of distributing digitally, as Action Labs has done with Wes Locher’s ‘Awry.’ I wish I could read more comics, and encourage the creativities of many through my willfully donated dollars, but there is, of course, a limit to my dollars and my time, and so there does have to be some selectivity. So I’ll buy some first issues that look appealing through flip-throughs / previews, then generally make a decision as to whether or not to go in for the rest of a run.
A book doesn’t have to blow me away to make that cut. Awry, for example, has a somewhat predictably snappy sense of humor – sort of dad-humored, though updated with a more modern tongue – and its travel-to-a-different-world-through-a-black-hole setup isn’t knocking the socks off of any seasoned sci-fi reader. Artist Graeham Jarvis’ work, especially with its characters, is a little stiff and flat; a rather amateurish vibe. But: Jarvis’ 3D sound effects, imaginative colors, and confidence with detailed and unusual layouts show an energy and sense of personal style that’s worthy of the four issues of pages it fills up, and Locher keys in on an integral element that keeps me reading: he keeps things fun, and leans in to the tone and story predictabilities to slip in some equally fun tweaks. More Locher books have now made their way into my digital cart…
Awry’s 20-year missioned space crew have arrived at their spacely destination, but the tech that’s supposed to be deployed has malfunctioned. Our weary, narrating captain decides to handle things manually, and gets sucked into a black hole in the process, winding up on a planet where he finds himself caught in the middle of a land dispute between two races. He continues to wearily narrate.
This voiceover slips in and out of being logical – it’s a bit unclear at points if it’s present tense, or a retelling – and serves more as a method for Locher to establish a humorous tone throughout. But it’s largely unnecessary: the cast of characters and events and artwork all have an airy beat to them, which makes the quick-moving roll of world building and black-hole hopping able to occur without getting stuck up in figuring out all the minutiae. Locher also is able to balance out a more adult tone to the story without forcing “adult” elements atop it, like excess swearing or picking on any of its characters. This makes the final few pages of the story especially satisfactory, which is certainly a good way to leave things.
Awry is clearly a book produced outside of the mainstream – something that Action Labs doesn’t shy away from, which vibes with my support of growing creatives – but it has a leg up on so many of those mainstream books by having a sense of personality behind it, and clear enthusiasm in its construction. And, y’know, by being actually enjoyable and fun to read.