Thursday, March 29, 2007

Unique #1

Unique #1, March 2007, Platinum Studios Comics
writer: Dean Motter
artist: Dennis Calero
letterer: Scott O. Brown
editors: Paul Cibis & Jim McLauchlin

Since childhood, we're told that we're unique. We're assured that we're one of a kind, that no one else on Earth is like us. You are a beautiful snowflake, and further you can grow up to be anything you want to be. Your uniqueness foreshadows your potential, and if you believe in yourself, you can change the world. We geeks know that this is not true. Sure, we may be one of a kind on this Earth, but, somewhere, our goatee-wearing doppelgangers are pursuing the urges we've consciously ignored. We've called them "what if stories" and elseworlds, but, really, they're just parallel universes, and as long as they exist, we'll never be unique. We'll never be anything than what this universe has relegated us to be.

Dean Motter knows this, and he's decided to do something about it.

Jon Geoffries is an insomniac that has been framed for embezzlement by his boss. His doctor has referred him for an experimental injection that will aid his condition, a peculiar temporary tattoo that will dissolve into his bloodstream and last ten sleep-filled days. Unfortunately, right after his first injection, authorities pursue Geoffries for those crimes he didn't commit, and just when they corner him, Jon . . . transfers. The scenery looks the same but the circumstances are different. In this new world, America's waking cycle is inverted; people wake and work at nighttime, and sleep during the day. Interestingly and somewhat humorously, Geoffries is arrested for curfew at four o'clock in the afternoon. When he sees his boss on television as a televangelist, then his boss's assistant as his legal counsel, he knows something is suspicious. Is he asleep, adrift in a dream world induced by his new medicine, or something else entirely?

Of course, it's something else entirely. A secret group of "timestream observers" (for lack of a better term) explains to Geoffries that different parallel worlds exist (duh, I said that already), and subsequently almost everybody has a varied incarnation on each of these worlds. Jon does not; therefore, Jon can exist in any of these worlds with little damage to the space-time continuum. (Motter doesn't explain the phenomenon quite like that, but that context makes the concept easier for we geeks accustomed to cybernetic mutants from the future or, ahem, Hypertime.) Apparently, Jon had sleepwalked through parallel worlds before, but now he's awake, presumably a side effect of his new tattoo. Suddenly, the authorities track Geoffries down and attack his new friends -- right before he transfers to yet another reality. For a three issue miniseries, Unique has an endless amount of potential.

Although I've summarized this forty-eight page issue rather comprehensively here (and for $2.99, that's not a bad deal), I didn't feel compelled to offer a spoiler alert, as much of this information has been leaked in promotional blurbs about the series anyway. This first issue is merely a concept piece, introducing readers to the idea and establishing characters' dynamics for two more issues of compelling plot . . . I hope. I've enjoyed Motter's past work -- Terminal City was really the first graphic novel I bought "cold," with no idea what it was about, and I was sold -- but I feel like he could've squeezed more story in this issue. Essentially, this issue is one long pursuit seasoned with plenty of ambiance, thanks to Calero's compelling visuals. Calero is one of a recent slew of artists that has successfully integrated line work with digital coloring to create a near cinematic effect in their panel design. Together, Motter and Calero have offered a character-intensive science fiction epic that dares to be unparalleled.

Still, if you're a geek like me, I know what you're thinking. Unique is just Sliders with a Quantum Leap sensibility. I'd understand your point, but while those old television series were primarily circumstance-driven, presenting viewers with different and engaging scenarios that vicariously challenged us through their protagonists, in Unique the protagonist is the challenge, a cosmic monkey wrench with the opportunity to change the world as we know it . . . and as our goatee-wearing doppelgangers know it. No matter what your mother told you, nobody else has that kind of potential. Nobody else is that unique. Yet, if this comic book can be compared to other works of media at all (even shows that can only be found on Sci-Fi Channel late night), ultimately, it isn't that unique, either. The next issue will truly tell.

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