Any fan of Image Comics’ early days will find plenty to love in Vanish #1 by Donny Cates (writer), Ryan Stegman (penciller), JP Mayer (inker), Sonia Obeck (colorist) and John J. Hill (letterer). That much is clear at a glance, with more than a few visual nods to predecessors like The Darkness or Spawn. But there’s more at work just under the surface in this book, as the super heroic veneer quickly falls away to reveal a compelling story about great expectations and the human cost of childhood indoctrination.
In Vanish #1, Oliver Harrison is the Chosen One. Or at least he was, back when he attended an extradimensional school for magical youngsters. These days, he sticks to a strict pharmaceutical cocktail designed to numb it all — or kill an elephant. He stumbles around in a constant fugue state, unsure whether his dark past is true or simply another hallucination. Perhaps both. But when an old foe resurfaces, Harrison must turn and face the reality he has tried so desperately to outrun in adulthood.
Child soldiers are a startlingly recurrent trope in fantasy. Whether the Jedi Academy or Hogwarts, there’s no shortage of highly questionable examples where kids are granted entirely too much power and expected to utilize it properly without question. While many commentators cry foul in online forums and think pieces, rarely do we see stories that take the pain of that trauma to its logical conclusion. But that is exactly where Cates and co. wants us to go, posing some difficult and necessary moral quandaries. The result is a character-driven examination of a theme that’s all too often taken for granted. Whatever your expectations going into this book, rest assured Cates has plenty of surprises up his sleeve.
To really sell the deconstructionist nature of the work, Stegman summons the spirit of greats like Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo with breathtaking skill. There are echoes of those that came before in these lines, but with a distinct visual flair that elevates the art to more than simple homage. This feels more like a remix, taking the elements that worked for 90’s and impressively updating them for a modern audience. Those with even a casual affection for traditional comic book art will be well pleased by the sheer craftsmanship of Stegman, Mayer and Obeck. All are in perfect synch, bringing the heart and grandiosity of Cates’ script to the forefront.
Vanish #1 is a damn fine comic that finds all its talent in top form. It’s rare to see a title with such potentially wide appeal, but that right is hard fought and earned here. A varied swath of themes, genres and styles are juggled with utmost grace, promising a satisfying series to come.
REVIEW: Vanish #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Letterer: John J. Hill
Publisher: Image Comics
Oliver Harrison was a mythical hero who slayed the greatest threat to his realm before even hitting puberty. But that was then.
As an adult, Oliver leads an average cookie-cutter suburban life-aside from the fact that he’s mentally unstable, massively paranoid, smokes like a chimney, and gets blackout drunk every night to hide from his horrific nightmares. Will the arrival of a superhero team called the Prestige prove the madness isn’t all in Oliver’s head? And what about all the epic fantasy crap from his childhood?
Join us for a brutal as hell tale of magical worlds, gifted youth, evil sorcerers, superheroes, war, blood, guts, and death that punches you right in the face!
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