North Bend Chapter 1: Datura Voluntas
Writer/Creator: Ryan Ellsworth
Illustrator: Rob Carey
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Review by Anelise Farris
North Bend Chapter 1: Datura Voluntas is a crime/sci-fi story that involves experimental drugs and a government conspiracy. The first issue opens with a prison scene, in which Brendan (“Ray”), an inmate, is conversing with his lawyer Henry. We learn that Ray is considered “crazy” because he has no memory of anything—other than bright lights—and he doesn’t feel that his body is his own. Clearly there’s more to Ray’s story than appears on the surface.
From here, we meet several other different characters in North Bend. There are two scientists who work for the CIA, creating a drug called Datura Voluntas from a plant that the government provides for them. Although the characters joke about the fact that they don’t know what the substance is actually being used for, it is clear that they are curious and at least mildly unsettled by this fact. And when one of the tubes of Datura Voluntas breaks and gets into the skin of one of the scientists, it becomes clear that this is an extremely dangerous substance. Towards the end of North Bend Chapter 1, we circle back to Brendan/Ray, learning that perhaps the reason he has become a mindless inmate is from an offer made by the CIA concerning the aforementioned drug.
Basically, this Datura Voluntas is bad news, and this story with government conspiracies, experimental drugs, printed meat, and communism has me more than intrigued for what’s to come. Let’s not neglect the art though: it is realistic, with cool, subdued colors, and gorgeous linework. The creative team made the smart decision to use solid backgrounds for the panels and to save all the detail for the characters. For a complex, interwoven story, this helps North Bend Chapter 1 from being too busy. Additionally, the roomy gutters between the panels allow readers space to insert themselves in the story and take a breathe here and there.
Verdict: Buy it.
North Bend Chapter 1: Datura Voluntas is an ambitious first issue that exceeds on all accounts. If you like a solid, well-written story about a government conspiracy (who doesn’t?) with brilliant art to match, then do yourself a favor: purchase issue #1 and support the Kickstarter for issue #2.