Written by Paul Constant
Illustrated by Alan Robinson and Randy Elliott
Colored by Felipe Sobreiro
Lettered by Rob Steen
Text Pieces Written by Stephen Miller and Robert Jeschonek
Text Piece Illustrations by Dan Schoeneck and Alice Darrow
Cover by David Nakayama
The second wave of titles from AHOY Comics continues with this week’s debut of Planet of the Nerds. The series focuses on a group of 1980s high school jocks as they torment one of their nerd classmates. In the course of the torment, the trio is accidentally cryogenically frozen, and when they thaw in the present day, they find that the tide has turned against them, and that geeks are suddenly everywhere. If that sounds like a lot of fun to you, you’re not wrong. However, right off the bat, Planet of the Nerds #1 clearly shows that there’s more to the series than just a high concept.
Writer Paul Constant uses the conceit of the series and readers’ preconceived notions about who these characters might be as a foundation for some compelling character work. Using the archetypal jock bully, so well-remembered from classic ‘80s movies like Lucas and Revenge of the Nerds, Constant takes that framework and builds complex, nuanced characters from it. A jock named Chad is a remorseless bully, but it’s also hinted that there may be something going on with him that’s making him act this way. The other jock characters, Steve and Drew, seem to either get swept up in Chad’s antics or actively try to push back against them. The issue’s main feature focuses on that trio of characters, while a back-up story, also written by Constant, puts the spotlight on Alvin, the science geek object of Chad’s torment. That story, too, puts an entertaining twist on the cliche of the kindly meek nerd. All of these characters feel well-rounded from the jump. Constant also wisely paces the issue, taking the time to establish character and setting before diving into the stranger aspects of the series. For someone who is apparently a first-time comic writer, this is an impressive debut.
The issue’s main story is drawn by Alan Robinson, whose style here is cartoony without being over-the-top. His characters are expressive, and he strikes a great balance throughout the issue when it comes to scene backgrounds. His page layouts are also visually interesting and keep an issue that is mainly conversation-driven from ever looking boring. Artist Randy Elliott’s art on the backup story provides a nice complement to Robinson’s, the two styles appearing so similar that you might not even realize two different artists drew these stories. A huge part of that may also lie in the coloring of the issue, which holds everything together and helps enhance the narrative of the book. Felipe Sobreiro’s colors are nothing short of exquisite. The majority of the main story and all of the back-up take place in the ‘80s, and Sobreiro uses a different coloring technique for those scenes than he does for the sequences in the main story set in the present day. The ‘80s-set pages appear yellowed with age, the faded colors not quite as sharp as they are on the later pages. I’ve been excited to see the coloring on this issue since Sobreiro’s shifting techniques were praised at the AHOY panel at Emerald City Comic Con, and the colorist’s work here certainly didn’t disappoint.
As with all AHOY titles, as an added bonus the issue also includes a pair of standalone text pieces accompanied by new illustrations. Stephen Miller’s “A Night to Remember” is a wryly nostalgic tale with a Twilight Zone-level twist at the end, and the accompanying illustration by Dan Schoeneck beautifully captures the feel of Miller’s piece. “The Last Night of the Last Bokey-Bokey on Earth” by Robert Jeschonek closes the comic on a dark and somber note. More a narrative poem than straight prose, “Last Night” feels like an elegy written while the elegized is in the process of dying. Artist Alice Darrow’s illustration of the Bokey-Bokey is creepily evocative and supplements the text well.
As a complete package, Planet of the Nerds #1 is highly satisfying. Sharp writing from Constant and well-executed art from Robinson and Elliott, plus spectacular coloring from Sobreiro, elevate the title beyond just its high concept premise. It’s an excellent first issue, and it continues AHOY’s hot streak of great debuts. I’m excited to find out what happens next.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.