‘Chapter One: Stay in the light
The Chapterverse continues, with this brand new series! 24-year old Paz Gallegos has been holding her family together for years. But when her two sisters go missing and her life begins to unravel, Paz finds herself thrown into a world of gangs, guns… and ghosts. Because something spectral is lurking just below the surface of Paz’s nightmares. Something not afraid to leave a trail of bodies in its wake. Fantomah’s story begins here, in a pulse-pounding first issue brought to you by Ray Fawkes and Soo Lee.’
Written by: Ray Fawkes
Art by: Soo Lee
Publisher: ChapterHouse Comics
Released: August 2 2017
You may recall that I have a fondness for skull imagery, so obviously this caught my eye. I’m sure I’ve read a Fantomah story before included in some collection or sneak peek, but can’t find it, so I’ve giving my memory some side-eye here but I’m sure I remember it as interesting. So vengeful ghost anti-hero, here I come!
I like the colours and visuals used to convey the ghost part of the story here. Since this is a first issue origin story, the whole supernatural element isn’t used much yet, but the cover gives you an idea of the techniques used (the cover is by Djibril Morissette-Phan but the colour/imagery scheme used is the same as the inside artwork); Lee uses pale blues and a veined body to create a cool etheric yet organic feel to the character, and a scene early on of water suddenly gushing and overflowing from a high bridge gives a creepy sense of something powerful and unexplained reaching into the world. There’s some continued good use of colour to inform emotion too, with encroaching dark reds on the pages when the main character is searching for her young sisters and they’re not in any of the possible places. As a parent, I can totally empathise with that rising horror as soon as a young kid isn’t where you thought they were and you rapidly start running through every place they might be, and I think they conveyed that really well in two or three pages as opposed to just jumping to some sort of exposition of “I can’t find them!”, which would have robbed the following scene of a lot of its emotional tension. The linework itself isn’t as polished as it could be but certainly isn’t bad; basically it’s ok but couldn’t carry the comic on its own without good writing. There’s the occasional spot that looks almost amateurish, and this is a little unusual as Lee’s other works are each distinct but more solid from what I can see, so it may just be the effects of trying something different with the linework.
As usual for first issues, the plot is just setting up the characters and world. All you can judge is the series’ potential, and I think this has it. The main character and her motivation is set up, some bad guys are taken out, but the major plot points are unresolved as cliff-hangers (standard first issue set up). Like I mentioned before, the supernatural element isn’t very much in effect until the end visually, but there’s some narration-like bits hinting at a larger issue which lay it on a bit thick; thankfully not enough to start me rolling my eyes though. It does help establish another overarching storyline point for the series as a whole though – there are enough that I’m worried the continuing series won’t address them all properly, but that’s something that remains to be seen, and I haven’t read other series’ that Fawkes has written to tell. If it does, I’ll like it a lot, and I hope I do since the concept is pretty cool and if it establishes itself well it’ll probably go the standard path of setting up a sidekick or two which should be interesting. I’ll also be interested to see whether the violence quotient ups the ante as it goes – the end involves some bloody-but-not-gory slaughter which I reckon establishes the protagonist as an anti-hero, and I assume sets the standard for the series, but how something like that is examined can either make for really interested writing in a story, or fall into the terrible sordid pit of angst.
My overall impression is that this is one of those first issues that has proved a potential for a great series, with the qualifier that it might not deliver. The art has good practicality when conveying what it wants, and the writing is solid but has set up a lot to follow up on – it’ll take proving itself in the long run to consider me sold. But I have a good feeling about it.