American comics, not to mention film and literature, do not lack for stories set in a post-apocalyptic landscape. In some ways it seems the burned-out husk of America is the new Western in pop culture.
Then along comes a comic that shows you the familiar in a way you’ve never seen it before. That’s what The Few #1 is, recognizable fiction infused with a new point of view to become something vibrant again.
Vibrant is not a word to be applied to the pages of The Few, written by Sean Lewis and drawn by Hayden Sherman, though. From the very first page imagery of brutal Northeastern winters and sparse Midwestern landscapes are combined. It is the stark beauty of the worst snow-laden territories America has to offer. The story nominally takes place in rural Montana, but it’s not hard to imagine it occurring in any woods left standing like a graveyard come January.
Sherman’s imagery is sharp and sparse throughout. Tree branches and people both seem like they might crack at any moment. A limited color palette leaves silhouettes to dominate each panel. In this world where every figures is darkness against a never-ending landscape of white, the joints of elbows and knees seem just as likely to puncture as snap. It creates a conflict between fragility and savagery. One character in particular is taken between these extremes very quickly, illustrating how a moment of weakness can turn the world ugly.
The sparseness of the art is beautifully matched by a similar quality in the narrative throughout much of the first issue. A flashback and chase are all that is needed to give some sense of who this small central cast of characters may be. Their drive for survival and awkward interactions provide more than enough context for sympathy and forms of projection. They are survivors, as mysterious to us as one another, and in this they beg for understanding, even as they threaten to transform.
It’s only as this first issue approaches its cliffhanger that plot begins to overtake mood. Characters established through their brief interactions with one another become figures within a continental conflict. It appears they are intended to explore and explain the state of the world, rather than simply live within it. And this is where The Few #1 stumbles. It is a comic that functions beautifully through its sketching and feeling. When it beings to grasp at a grander conflict with a scale beyond three adults and one child, what sets it apart begins to fade and leave behind the familiar.
Yet even with these final movements towards the easily recognized, The Few remains a debut issue worth seeking out. Sherman’s debut at Image Comics is stunning and the world constructed on these pages more striking than anything it might be compared to. American comics are not lacking for post-apocalyptic scenarios, but The Few has already set itself apart visually. This issue presents a world that feels as fragile and precious as the violence within the pages might lead you to believe our truly is. That imagery alone is worth re-reading.