As creators in comics become more established, we as readers pick up on their tics and traits. We come to understand what to expect from their work, and the potential of a new #1 issue offers just a bit less luster. There are few writers better established in comics than Robert Kirkman. The Walking Dead and Invincible, his behemoth works at Image Comics, have established exactly what sorts of story Kirkman writes and how he writes them. The former has even spread many of those tendencies to one of the largest television audiences of today. It’s this expectation that makes Oblivion Song #1 not necessarily a surprise, but an invigorating new vision from Kirkman and exciting newcomer Lorenzo De Felici.
The premise is relatively simple, although it suggest layers of complexity to be revealed. A large portion of Philadelphia has been sealed away after being overrun by extradimensional monsters. The Oblivion, as its known, has been largely forgotten with monuments raised for those lost, with the exception of a small group who continues to explore it and rescue increasingly rare survivors. They are led by the resilient Nathan Cole.
De Felici immediately differentiates this world from what fans might come to expect from a post-apocalyptic landscape. There are crumbling buildings and poorly garbed survivors, but the world is far more surreal. The closest points of reference would be the work of James Harren in series like Rumble and B.P.R.D., both of which also deal in monsters that are outside of Earth’s ecosystem. Fungus-like growths boil out of brick walls and even the sky seems contorted, as if torn between two realities. The first issue is bookended with trips to Oblivion, and the few examples of monsters and deformities revealed are enough to make this series stand out from seemingly similar entries.
The brutal world of Oblivion provides half of the focus of Oblivion Song. It is the driver of drama and action. The ever-present danger presents it as a largely quiet world in which Nathan works silently, even when sprinting from creatures or firing his rifle. An occasional exclamation is all that can be expected as De Felici concisely connects cause and effect between panels. The opening sequence of the series is a real attention grabber with new elements being smartly added through the use of shadows or other small details.
Yet Oblivion is still only half of the thematic focus in this debut. The heart of the drama stems from arguments occurring in Washington, D.C. There is a tension between those that want to confront the existence of Oblivion, like Nathan, and those ready to memorialize and forget about it. That conflict between dealing with a dangerous issue and accepting its existence without hope of change could not have come at a more politically potent moment. It’s easy to draw connections between the arguments had in Oblivion Song #1 and national discussions over gun control, foreign wars, and other politically wrought issues. While Kirkman’s series typically strive to remain apolitical, especially The Walking Dead, Oblivion Song finds its greatest strength here. It also establishes the arguments not as a simple right-wrong opposition, but as two approaches grounded in human nature. Even if one is truly right, there are characters on both sides of the conversation providing a sympathetic grounding.
Oblivion Song #1 is likely to exceed the expectations of readers across the board. It reveals De Felici as an artist well worth watching as he crafts setting and characters in equally fascinating degrees. It also pushes Kirkman beyond his comfort zone. The character archetypes and despair-laden premise are familiar, but their presentation and execution are far different than many of his other titles. There is an engagement with the present that makes it read as a comic for 2018, rather than one that was just released this year. It is grappling with issues that provide no easy solutions, and excels at blending them with horror and action. There are both the makings of something familiar and entirely fresh within Oblivion Song #1, and together they make this a series worth watching.
Published by Image Comics
On March 7, 2018
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Lorenzo De Felici1comments
Colors by Annalisa Leoni
Cover by Lorenzo De Felici