Utopiates #1, Bloodfire Studios
by Josh Finney and Kat Rocha
starring: Matthew Scull, Steven Freeman, Mistress Cyn
I'm proud to announce that I am now a contributor to Geek in the City, a website that I envy as the image I've always sought to achieve on the 'net, if only I had more cyber savvy. Still, the opportunity to submit some writings without the burden of posting or formatting is the best of both worlds, I suppose. One of my contributions will be a weekly review from A Comic A Day, a new conscious effort to read at least one issue from the new release shelf every Wednesday (or, in this case, Thursday, as Space Beaver warranted my attention last night). So . . .
Yesterday I strolled into my local comic book/gaming shop, interested in a new release that I could offer to both Geek in the City and my daily blog A Comic A Day as the latest achievement in sequential art greatness. I've only been to this shop a few times, each of which has ended in disappointment because of their narrow selection of new titles, but its geographic convenience is hard to beat. So, perusing the new release rack, my first impression was the sheer volume of "number two" issues; apparently, I missed one heck of a launch last month. Then, in the bottom right corner of the last shelf, darn near scrapping the floor, I found Utopiates. Ironically, a comic book about drugs was destined to fulfill my weekly need for artistic sustenance. We geeks love our destined fulfillments.
The drugs featured in Utopiates aren't as satisfying, at least to the long-term thinker. Starring an unnamed Every Adolescent rife with an angst I thought had gone the way of grunge rock, Utopiates presents a drug by the same name that offers brief but blissful escape through the injection of "mental imprints of other people" neatly packaged in an identity-altering RNA strand. Although our wayward anti-hero experiences every utopiate from "porn star" to "thuglife," his true addition is the "family" dose, which instills a sense of love and comfort, that which the lost generation so desperately needs, I presume. Of course, his addiction has nasty consequences, and in the end, this issue reads like a twisted version of A&E's reality show Intervention. Thought caption driven, this issue could have used more dialogue to assert its characters' personalities and motives, but as a study in drug addiction cut with a pinch of sci-fi sweetness, Utopiates #1 is an entertaining, if challenging inaugural effort.
The most distinctive aspect of this issue is its art, seemingly a blend of photo-tracing and digital imagery. You can see I credited the issue's creators and stars, as I would imagine that each panel was carefully, physically choreographed and captured in some way before any manual rendering took place. Therefore, the characters lack the fluidity that comes from a standard artist's exaggeration of the human body, and the background is set dressing to the pain-staking detail designated for this issue's "actors." Still, the overall package presents a terrifyingly real situation, as if, as writer Josh Finney implies in this supplemental essay, the lead character was someone we might remember from high school. However, Finney mentions Los Angeles, and unless I missed the reference in the actual story, I had no idea that this issue took place in my own backyard, albeit in some indiscriminate future. These are minor but noticeable details in an issue packaged with a specific purpose, and mission accomplished, I say. Aside from the next issue, I'll never touch utopiates, you can be sure.
I should mention that Utopiates reminded me of Brian Wood's Channel Zero and the recent Image series The Nightly News. The issue's supplemental glossary is an interesting and in some cases necessary way to attract a core fanbase.
My girlfriend often jokes about how we should go on Intervention, with an episode apparently dedicated to my obsessive need for comics and action figures. (Even I admit that four different Red Tornado action figures is a bit much, but I wouldn't buy them if they didn't make them!) As much as I don't think segments showing me scouring the pegs at Target are as interesting as a junkie lamenting his plight curled up in a sewer drain (a real moment from the A&E "classic"), the thought that we geeks have something in common with the drug abuser is frighteningly familiar. Am I the only one that examines the paint application on a Spider-man Classics Demogoblin before I make my purchase, the fanboy equivalent to asking a pusher, "Is this the good stuff?" Surely I'm not alone in the fulfillment of beholding a complete Legion of Doom in animated form on my shelves (and we're getting closer everyday, people!). Yes, we love our destined fulfillments . . . but unless we have girlfriends that get dragged through these seedy comic shops, they're usually harmless, victimless crimes. I do not have a problem . . .