Coming up eventually...

Wasteland #1

This is a new b&w ongoing series from Oni. The first issue is a double-sized 48 pages, priced at $2.99, and will be out in July.

It's a minimal, action-heavy piece, filling in the barest outlines of a general concept while sketching in a few characters to presumably wander across the series' post-cataclysm world through an indeterminate number of future issues. It's always interesting for me to see a publisher like Oni leaping into pamphlet-format ongoing - their current identity seems dominated by original graphic novels like Scott Pilgrim or limited series like Local or My Inner Bimbo. It's enough that I sometimes forget that Oni is publishing Queen & Country in its various comics forms - one of those projects, Queen & Country: Declassified III, actually saw an earlier pairing of the creative team for this book, writer Antony Johnston and artist Christopher Mitten.

And what those two have created is a fair enough distraction of a book, not particularly excellent in any manner, but affirmatively clear of overt failing. Just straight-up middlebrow ruined civilization fighting, no more and no less. I've no idea what's planned for future issues; Oni's solicitation insists that the series "bends genres and conventions in a way that only comics can" though this initial outlay doesn't wander much farther from post-disaster adventure wildness than its townsfolk do from their dusty village.

Naturally, there's a dusty village. There's also a mystery man who wanders in, a trader/scavenger named Michael who's prone to getting into fights with the monstrous sand-eaters that wander the outskirts of civilized places. He's a seemingly amoral, self-centered fellow, but naturally he falls in with the local healer/sheriff, Abi, and winds up standing with the good citizens as they defend their lives from an encroaching danger. There's also a strange letter promising of mythic places to find in the future, some curious high technology that appears to stand in contrast to the otherwise unsophisticated ways of the current human world, and a taste of mystic powers running through some of the cast.

All of it goes about how you'd expect - Johnston makes sure to emphasize the spiritual connection between old west yarns and post-apocalypse fictions, strange dangers and shadowed strangers and lawlessness running through both. But these genres have been so close for so long that their unity seems to go without saying, not as much a bond as a self-evident whole. Artist Mitten provides a scratchy touch, lots of white space employed to convey the the expansive nature of the environment, the action adequately handled. I enjoyed the stylized look given to Michael in full face protection gear (the same mug that Ben Templesmith plasters across the cover), a pair of yawning googly eyes floating against a black sea of hair and shade - not a bad choice of image to brand the series with, a taste of shorthand genre flavor.

I expect fans of the genre will enjoy said flavor the most, though. Wasteland is the type of comic that is sturdy enough to appeal to those who're predisposed to interest in such things, but probably won't muster enough individuality or excellence to firmly tip those on the fence over to the purchasing side. Future issues might have something else readied, but the extra space of this one only provides more room for the typical (if never impoverished) to rustle about in. Give it a look when it appears, if it sounds like your speed.