I always find it hard to review individual comic issues since they’re such thin slices of a complete story, and for that reason I prefer to review trade paperbacks. Particularly when it comes to the first issue, you can only really discuss the experience of reading that one issue and not so much plot, character or any of those overarching things, at least not until later issues.
But when a favorite creator puts something out—in this case artist menton3—like any geek worth his salt I can’t resist drawing attention to it. Add the fact that he’s doing the art for a spin-off of one of my favorite horror films, David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), and there’s no question that this is a series I’m going to follow.
So how does the first issue of IDW’s The Fly: Outbreak #1 fare? Well, to be honest it’s not amazing (yet) but it’s certainly enjoyable and I’ll definitely be adding it to my ultra-selective and short list of comics to keep up with until it gives me reason to do otherwise.
As a spin-off title, The Fly: Outbreak has something working for it and something working against it in relation to the films. To simply be associated with Cronenberg’s masterful 1986 remake in name immediately evokes the atmosphere and emotions associated with that first film. This is amplified here by the beautiful and subdued cover by menton3 (those desiring a higher gross-out factor can check out the retailer incentive variant cover by Jason Edmiston). Fly fans can’t help but turn to the first page with fervid anticipation, whereupon menton3 pulls us even deeper into the dread-soaked atmosphere with his otherworldly art.
What works against this comic is that it continues the story of Martin Brundle, the son of Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle played by Eric Stoltz in the sequel. Obviously, as those who have seen both films know, this is a logical necessity if one is to continue off the movies at all. But it’s generally agreed that the second film was unremarkable, and in general Martin isn’t as compelling a character as his father. In fairness, this is no inherent fault of the character himself but the fact that the script of The Fly II (1989) wasn’t up to the standards of its predecessor. Nestled within the right story, however, Martin could indeed become a more gripping character and although a single issue isn’t enough to determine that yet, there’s enough here—including a tantalizing peek at his sexual proclivities—to be optimistic about.
In terms of the story at large, writer Brandon Seifert is wise to quickly set up a chain of events that will take us out of the research facility where the first issue is confined. I won’t divulge how except to say that the subtitle is a pretty good hint. To go the claustrophobic horror route would only be repeating the approach of the second film so I’m glad that by the end of the first issue we’re already playing on a bigger stage.
I enjoy Seifert’s work, particularly his BOOM! Studios collaborations with horror legend Clive Barker, but so far when it comes to The Fly: Outbreak I have to say that it’s really menton3’s mesmerizing art, once again, that has me along for this ride. Of particular beauty is his surreal use of light (unexpected for the genre and title) and the ghostly glow that suffuses everything. He also employs an interesting technique here in which the characters are portrayed photorealistically but the backgrounds are rendered in a minimalist fashion. I quite like it, and this may be overanalyzing but it makes me wonder if this is some kind of visual statement about the characters being the focus and not the setting or the props.
This first issue of The Fly: Outbreak doesn’t have as much corporeal grotesquerie as you might expect given that this is The Fly, but I actually appreciate that Seifer and menton3 haven’t gone that obvious route, at least not yet. Maybe when the s**t really starts to hit the fan we’ll get more of that, but for now the artists are showing an interesting degree of restraint.
One caveat: in the off chance you haven’t seen the films, I’d suggest doing so before checking this comic out. It doesn’t waste any space giving you back story more than a paragraph long, which isn’t enough to give you a point of reference for The Fly mythos. You’d spend the entire issue just trying to figure out what those pods are, or who Martin is, and I’m sure the comic’s creators would rather you spend that time in enjoyment than in puzzlement.