Collapser #1 Review: A Gorgeous & Anxious Superhero Origin

Collapser #1, which arrives in stores today, brings the raw emotion and rock and roll edge of the Young Animal imprint to new heights. The debut issue brings about an unlikely superhero tale that doubles as a spellbinding and poignant take on living with anxiety, which feels, both visually and narratively, unlike anything else DC Comics is publishing today.

Collapser follows Liam James, a young man who lives in New York City, chasing his big break as a DJ in between working at a nursing home. Over the course of the first issue, Liam's life begins to be turned upside down, after he is delivered a mysterious package from his estranged—and now dead—mother. As things go along, Liam learns a truth about himself that he probably won't be able to escape from: the package contained a black hole, which has now taken hold inside of his body.

The plot of "ordinary man finds out an extraordinary truth about himself" certainly isn't uncommon in the world of superhero comics, much less within the Young Animal imprint. But the method by which Shaun Simon and Mikey Way (My Chemical Romance bassist and brother of Young Animal curator Gerard Way) handle that story is compelling in a way that really sneaks up on you. The narrative unfolds in a manner that's simultaneously bizarre and ethereal, and incredibly still slice-of-life.

A lot of that balance is thanks to how Liam is presented as a protagonist, one who simultaneously feels inherently cool and incredibly uncool. Liam's anxious internal monologue, which carries a huge chunk of the events in this issue, is almost too easy to get sucked into, whether he's mentally planning his next DJ set, distracting himself during the gross parts of his job, or questioning what of reality is actually real anymore.

There's a lot to be said about the way Simon and Way's writing handles the relationship between anxiety and emotion, which proves an all-too-perfect parallel to Liam's ever-growing black hole. Throughout the issue, Liam struggles with exactly how vulnerable he could and should be to the changes that pop up in his life. This notion of frequently putting your guard up (even, in Liam's case, going so far as sleeping with a sword above your bed) certainly isn't foreign to those struggling with anxiety, which makes it a fascinating foundation on which to build a superhero story.

The series' narrative could easily get by on its own laurels, but the art from Ilias Kyriazis elevates it into something really special. There's a trippy quality to even the most humdrum of sequences, to the point where the more extraterrestrial moments evoke both Jack Kirby and the strangest album covers buried in a record store. Every facial expression and physique conveys so much emotion, in a way that's simultaneously fluid and rough around the edges. The street style of Liam and his friends is rendered to fantastic detail, and even the smallest of background details easily deserves a second look.

Cris Peter's colors bring a perfect visual dissonance to the entire issue, and plays with saturation in a way that continues to be profound and interesting as the issue goes along. The lettering from Simon Bowland carries that kinetic energy even more, especially when it comes to speech or thought bubbles that might be more than meets the eye.

Collapser's debut issue is a pleasant surprise in so many ways. Shaun Simon and Mikey Way take the bare bones of a traditional superhero origin and turn it on its head at every turn, creating a poignant take on anxiety, self-sabotage, and the cost of being emotionally vulnerable. Combined with a relatable protagonist, genuinely gorgeous visuals, and a punk-rock sensibility, this miniseries packs a punch full of promise. It's unclear exactly what's in store for Liam's story, but that amount of intrigue is exactly why this issue deserves to be a part of your pull list.

Published by DC Comics

On July 17, 2019

Written by Shaun Simon and Mikey Way

Art by Ilias Kyriazis

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Colors by Cris Peter

Letters by Simon Bowland

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