‘MeSseD: Follow the Flush contains Chapters 1-5, Choke, Garden Graveyard, Scrape, Beautiful Dreamer and Lucky by writer Jay B. Kalagayan and illustrator Dylan Speeg as well as bonus material including Fat Mucket files, MeSseD shorts and pin ups.’
Writer: Jay B Kalagayan
Artist: Dylan Speeg
Publisher: Creative Mussel
Released: 12 July 2017
I’ve got to admit, when I first read the title, I was pretty sure it would be toilet humour. Or set in a magical toilet world. Sparkly crap dancing in the flushing meadows. You get the idea. The actual cover art implies something far more practical and less pee-fountainous though, looking solid and gritty. I won’t say I dived in, because that would open up some horrible jokes and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.
This is a collection of five ‘chapters’, and I don’t know if they were released separately or not but the inside art is black and white with only the issue covers and in-world end notes of each issue being in colour. The issue artwork is very interesting, a lot of black with a mix of clean lines and slightly rough-and-ready ones and plenty of greyscale. Most is clear enough to show details such as the workers’ uniforms and gear, while the backgrounds are often murky darkness and bricks except for what’s immediately around the characters. This works really well – the almost claustrophobic labyrinth these people and creatures inhabit as their everyday life isn’t a sunny open place. The panel layouts facilitate it too, using close-ups and odd shaped panels when wider shots of the surroundings aren’t required. Sometimes you feel you don’t need colour – it’s set in a sewer after all – but other times you do have to fill in details with your imagination, such as when a fungal bloom forest is described as ‘pretty’ but all you have is the shapes in black line as reference. Is it brilliant scarlet? Shades of muddy green? A hint in the dialogue or narration would have been nice.
As you can guess, the world it’s set in isn’t like our own. I’d call it slightly dystopic though I don’t know if it’s meant to be set in our world or a fictional version where all this is normal; apparently it’s under the streets of the city of Cincinnati, though I don’t know if everyone else there knows what’s happening in the sewers. Our erstwhile hero encounters massive worms, gloopy monsters, mutant humanoid bacteria, and more, without batting an eye – while I’d chalk this up to the main character being badass the issue end notes confirm these things are almost par for the course in her world. It’s definitely got me interested. The thing is, if I’d encountered this as separate issues rather than a collection I probably wouldn’t have been as interested; the dialogue is minimal and fractured while being intelligently concise (you may even need to grab a dictionary if you’re not a bookworm), adding to the dystopic feel, but it also needs the reader to become invested in the characters and situations to be worth the attention to get what’s being talked about rather than just gloss over it for the next action scene. Something about the artwork and general composition reminds me of underground self-published comix style, which rarely feels the need to keep to usual narrative and sequential art styles, and if I’d come across MeSseD as a single issue I would probably have considered it a cute cool little thing and gone on to something else (there was some competition in what to select for review as usual). But the collection here means you can follow along with these subterranean people, creatures, and adventures, see the over-arching world building, and really wonder what will happen next.
If you don’t like discussion of sewer clogs and mutant bacteria, you might want to avoid this, but if you like fighting giant toothed sewer worms, sentient animal diplomacy, rescuing a fellow worker who’s gotten into a tight spot of her own, and general hanging with various underground denizens/inhabitants, definitely give it a look.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing this issue of ‘MeSseD Comics Season 1: Follow the Flush’ for review.