Supermarket #4, June 2006, IDW Publishing
writer: Brian Wood
letterer: Robbie Robbins
editor: Chris Ryall
I've never understood the stock market. I don't know if my high school economics teacher didn't explain well enough, or if I'm too fiscally irresponsible to wrap my head around it (I'm leaning toward the latter), but my three-letter code is definitely "SOL" on any network's tickertape. Heck, I hardly comprehend the faux stocks on G4's Star Trek 2.0, and I'm most vested in that market than any other! Still, despite my naivete, I can completely understand the probably of an urban stock market takeover -- the total integration of our most sacred cows via stocks, bonds, and corporate investment. We often debate the disasters indicative of a stock market crash, but what if circumstances swing the other way? If our economic stability depends upon that of the market, couldn't its boom consume us, too?
Brian Wood's Supermarket explores such a dark future in which all is run by economics, although Kristian's vibrant visuals are definitively anything but dark. With a style from the Paul Pope school of techno-youth culture, Kristian's art is blanketed with bright neon hues that pop off the page, capturing the essence of a rich corporate future expertly. Unfortunately, by issue's end, the novelty wears off as Kristian's colors become more mainstream, more confined by their lines, but still, the overall package leaves a favorable impression. I'd like to read more from the Kristian library, if Supermarket is any indication of what else he or she has to offer. Yes, "he or she." That "K" throws everything off.
Brian Wood is another case entirely. I picked up his Channel Zero on a whim several years ago and enjoyed it immensely. I was determined to follow his work as I thought it bucked the conventions of the industry, as I thought his voice was one of a few daring to look at the future sans the goggles of streamlined technology, akin to the utopian Earth of The Jetsons or Star Trek lore. Alas, Supermarket, published a decade later, is indicative of the harsh truth of Wood's success: he's a one-trick pony. Here's a single sentence synopsis: Apathetic urban youth in a criminally corporate future go counter-culture to preserve freedom for all. Now, am I summarizing Channel Zero, with its Jennie 2.0 versus the sanctified media of the Religious Right, or Supermarket, with its Pella Suzuki versus the corporation of all-consuming criminal economics? I've successfully described them both, and, with a little minor variation, all of the comics I've read by Brian Wood. I won't deny the guy's specific, visually appealing artistic vision, as many of his collaborating artists have a beautiful style, but I wonder if he doesn't simply piggyback these associates' efforts. Still, I dubbed this "harsh truth" a success, as Wood has a tireless fanbase that keeps him active in the industry and a celebrity at the Con circuit. I can't blame them; I was almost one of them.
I enjoyed Supermarket for its stand-out status ,and if I hadn't pulled it from a four-for-a-dollar box, I probably would've pulled from the new release shelf a year ago, had I seen it. It probably sold out pretty quickly in the shops I frequent, those that favor the indie scene and ranks talent like Wood's and Kristian's right up there with Stan, Jim, and Jae Lees'. However, with a $3.99 pricetag, I'm grateful I found it for a quarter. For a comic about the root of all evil, I feel like purchasing it so cheaply does its spirit a service. My way of fending off the future.