Narcopolis: Continuum is a comic series based on a film of the same name. At least, that’s what the back of the first issue told me; I am woefully unfamiliar with the source material. Perhaps seeing the film before reading the comic will help the reader get a better sense of the world and the characters, because on its own the comic doesn’t do much. This is not to say it is bad, because it’s not, but there is so much crammed in here that we never really get any idea of what motivates these characters or what propels this world.
Writer Scott Duvall does his best at giving us a boatload of information. The lead character, Ben, does a lot of internal monologuing, which serves as the main delivery method of this information. We learn about the world, Ben’s place in it, and the supporting characters almost entirely through this internal monologue. You’d think this would help give us a clear picture of Ben, but he still is a bit of a mystery, doing things like urging others to have patience with an experiment in one panel and then screaming for them to skip the trial period and go straight to jamming a needle in his eye in the next panel. We just never get a real sense of who Ben is, and that is one thing we definitely need.
The art is equally problematic. Artist Ralf Singh is great at giving a clear sense of scene and place. His storytelling is smooth and uncluttered. Unfortunately, the characters are another story altogether. There’s a stiffness to all of them and their anatomy is often bizarre and strangely angled. Many panels feature nothing more than a character’s head in front of solid blue background. Too often, we are left with nothing more than talking, strangely formed heads.
It’s not all bad, though. Nicolas Chapuis’ colors and Taylor Esposito’s lettering are silky smooth, which helps a great deal. There are some pages, when we are seeing a cityscape, like a crowd of skyscapers, that are downright pretty. Again, this can largely be attributed to Singh’s great design sense as well as the colors and lettering. The problem is, for every good panel there is one that is stiff, boring, and empty.
We get a lot of stuff in Narcopolis: Continuum #1, but it’s not all good. There’s just enough here – a glimmer of a great story – to bring you back for one more issue. Hopefully, that next issue is a little smoother and filled with characters we can understand. If not, most folks probably won’t be around for issue three.