By Ales Kot, Will Tempest, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller
Excellent comicbook for people who don't read comics. It's Kot's soapbox book, in the way that PROMETHEA was Alan Moore's and much of TRANSMETROPOLITAN was Warren Ellis'.
MATERIAL, Vol. 1 is different in that rather than follow one main character, it follows four: a former Guantanamo inmate, an actress, a protestor, and a philosophy professor. Their stories are not in anyway intertwined nor do they intersect at any point, but exist as parallels, and I quite like that. While each of our four characters leads a completely different life, what they share in common is perhaps this: something new is introduced in their lives. Whether that new thing is a positive influence or not entirely depends on what they do with it.
Upon first glance, Will Tempest's art may come off as rather weak, especially especially If you've become overly accustomed to Marvel/DC fare. Not unlike attempting to derive the flavors of a simple Italian oregano/olive oil dish of some kind after eating a deep fried chicken doused in barbecue sauce. Almost impossible. But Will Tempest's art is really really good for the purpose of MATERIAL and I love that he's taking his color cues from the principles of graphic design rather than animation or cgi. It's cleanliness and clarity is a breath of fresh air what with the mess that is mainstream comics now.
The book also includes a series of excellent essays by Spencer Ackerman, Fiona Duncan, Jarette Kobek, Sarah Nicole Prickette, and Bijan Stephen! Way to connect the book to a larger cultural dialogue, Ales!
There ought to be more “soapbox comics”, because the medium is so right for it. And if you think about it: the comic strip, which is the predecessor of the comicbook, is entirely a soapbox affair. The whole idea behind the strip is for artists to use cartoon characters as vessels for their thoughts and frustrations on a daily basis. Why that approach is virtually absent from the comicbook, I think, has much to do with publishers trying to act too much like TV producers: relying on synopses and treatments and anything else that will turn a story into a stiff unrisky mathematical equation. An environment that PEANUTS, CALVIN & HOBBES, AND LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND can simply never thrive in. And you can bet that neither Ellis nor Moore would've been able to publish TRANSMET or PROMETHEA had they not already been household names. Although with Moore, PROMOTHEA started out as a superhero book, but turned into something else along the way, as per the Shaman's own testimony.
Kudos to IMAGE COMICS for growing the balls to publish MATERIAL, a book that relates to people not yet part of the company's usual readership. Now if there was only a way to get it on shelves outside of comicbook shops.