Cover by Owen Gieni
Cover by Owen Gieni

Negative Space #1

Art: Owen Gieni

Script: Ryan K. Lindsay

Letters: Ryan Ferrier

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Cover Art: Owen Gieni

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Horror

 

 

 

By Matthew Jent

Embrace the unknown. Dive right in.

I’ll be honest: things start off looking grim. A chubby writer tries to write his suicide note, but is prevented by writer’s block. He longs to connect with the world around him, but is locked away behind walls of shyness.

Sad male antihero. The creative struggle. Upbeat and inspirational African-American friend. Is Negative Space going to be another installment in a long line of thinly veiled, autobiographical, indie comics about the struggle of modern living? And what’s it all got to do with that strange pink creature on the cover?

Around page 4 things take a turn. We cut to “Kindred Tower, where everyone’s favorite multinational harvests emotions and sells out the human race one day at a time.” There’s an office competition at play, quotas to be met, emotions to be harvested.

It’s not just the story of a sad sack writer: it’s the story of conspiratorial corporations that manipulate feelings, keeping a nonstop watch on us all the time, utilizing seemingly limitless control over every aspect of our lives.

Owen Gieni (Shutter) brings traces of the great John Severin to Negative Space’s pencils and inks, and his color palette draws the eye to the expressive face of Guy, our blocked writer in question. Every place is distinct, even when changing locations panel to panel, and in a story about the harvesting of emotions, Gieni wisely lets facial expressions reveal the intricacies of the characters’ inner lives.

The script for Negative Space is by Ryan K. Lindsay (Headspace), and while the Kindred workers’ dialogue can veer toward clunky exposition, there is a clarity, sweetness, and brevity to the dialogue in scenes between Guy and his friend Woody. In their first scene together, before the more fantastical elements of the plot are revealed, the two appear to be playing roles forced upon them. But when they interact later (after Guy has had a terrible, no-good, very bad day involving murder, explosions, and embarrassments both large and small), the depth of their relationship starts to come through. Conspiracies abound, and it’s unclear if Woody cares for Guy or if he’s merely manipulating him, but their scene outside of Woody’s coffee truck points to Linday’s ability to script real people living among the strange and unusual.

The letters by Ryan Ferrier (D4VE) work well within the form they’re given, with cursive-penned captions for Guy’s failed suicide note and appropriately bolded emphases to track the script’s cadence. Occasionally the word balloons appear too uniformly-large for the text therein, leaving either a lot of white space, or awkwardly diamond-shaped text inside.

Large word balloons and blocks of text threaten to overtake panels whenever Guy is absent, which could turn the ostensible main character into a cypher without Gieni’s expressive faces. But Guy avoids becoming a leaf blowing in the (narrative) wind by committing to action. First in the face of the wrongdoing committed by the still-unknown-to-him Kindred forces, and then in his longing for connection with a friend.

Murderous car crashes and building fires fail to draw the attention of anyone but Guy. Is this all part of the conspiracy? Or evidence of an impatient plot? One issue in, it’s hard to say.

There is another strange force at work opposing the office drones of Kindred Tower, but we only catch the smallest glimpse of them in Negative Space #1. No, this isn’t a run-of-the-mill male antihero autobiographical story. Yes, this could be a run-of-the-mill everyman saves the world story. But if it is, it’s got some heart at its core.

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And a little heart can go a long way.

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