Creator: Melita Curphy
Writers: Singgih Nugroho & Ryan Cady
Artist: Sami Basri
Colorist: Sakti Yuwono
Letterer: Jaka Ady
Publisher: Top Cow (Image)
Review by Cory Webber and Nico Sprezzatura
[EDITOR’S NOTE: We had TWO contributors keen to cover this amazing new title so we said, heck yes, let’s run both of them. Fair warning though: this isn’t a dual review where both our reviewers wind up hating the book. We just thought it would be nice to spread the love for Dissonance. Twice!]
Dissonance #1 is about the Fantasmen, a civilization on a parallel world, superior to us in every way but one: they don’t have souls. They broker a deal with our ancestors to offer their superior knowledge and power in exchange for the virtue of humankind; this process is called dissonance. The story takes place in present day in which two Fantasmen siblings, with opposing world views, are challenged to take their parents’ positions in a devious group who secretly run the world. Meanwhile, Seraphim, a Fantasmen warrior guard is sent to earth to prevent a catastrophic event from affecting the Earth and its own universe.
Still with me? Good! This kind of high concept story was made to be told on the pages of a comic book. The world building is impressive for a first issue. Dissonance #1 is dense (I had to read it twice!), and I have no doubt that it will all come together nicely with each subsequent issue. The writers deftly handled the copious amount of exposition, which was helped by the clean, vibrant art. We are introduced to a lot of characters, and each has a unique voice. There are some story elements that are mirror images of our society today, but they aren’t heavy handed or preachy.
For me, the art in Dissonance #1 is the star here. The character designs are fantastic, especially the secret cabal of devious Fantasmen. The facial expressions are spot on; some of the best I’ve seen since McKelvie’s work in The Wicked & The Divine. The design of earth, enhanced by the technological knowledge provided by the Fantasmen, is familiar yet unique. The colors are bright and vibrant, and really lend a feeling of a familiar otherworldliness. The lettering is precise, and very clean; it feels natural to the kind of story that is being told.
Buy it. Run, don’t walk to your comic shop! Dissonance #1 has the potential to be the next big thing. It is a high level concept, but it works because the writing and art combine so well to tell it.
Dissonance is the latest product of Image & Top Cow’s collaboration with Indonesian art collective Glitch, following recently published titles God Complex and Bonehead. All three of these comics —Dissonance included— feature characters originally conceived as designs for high-end figurines, and you can definitely get a sense of that in the work itself. But is that a good or bad thing?
It’s a common joke among comics folk that someone like Todd McFarlane only creates comics (e.g. Spawn) for the express purpose of making toys out of them, and from the outside, it kinda seems like Glitch is taking the inverse approach of that here. To be fair, though, the toy market is historically way more booming than comics. Therefore, this endeavor feels more like a labor of love than a cash grab.
As for the actual content of Dissonance #1, it’s interesting! I haven’t read God Complex and Bonehead, so I’m not sure if this one is meant to co-exist with either of those, but context clues lead me to believe Dissonance is enough of its own thing for that question to be irrelevant. If anything, it’s made me curious enough to seek those out and see how they compare.
Perhaps because of its root in figurine design, Dissonance #1 is a gorgeous book. Science fiction design can be tricky to nail, but artist Sami Basri (drawing from creator Melita Curphy’s original designs) illustrates the world of Dissonance with exactly the kind of “science fantasy” aesthetic I enjoy seeing in things like the Destiny games. There’s a lot of exposition and worldbuilding here, but Basri’s energetic visuals help do a lot of the heavy lifting on a narrative level, while Sakti Yuwono’s colors are vibrant and soft, starkly contrasting with the boring monochrome palette we often associate to futurism.
Basri’s art is almost so good that it overshadows the story by Singgih Nuhroho & Ryan Cady. As mentioned, the setup for Dissonance #1 is very dense at the start. The issue starts with a two-page prologue that explains its world and mythos, and I have to wonder if the reading experience would’ve been improved had it been placed at the end of the issue as backmatter instead. “Info dumping” is always a contentious solution in narrative storytelling —especially science fiction— and as utilized here, it could possibly turn readers off right at the beginning.
But once the story of Dissonance #1 gets going, it actually establishes an intriguing premise for itself. Set on a futuristic Earth where humankind has forged a symbiotic relationship with a race of animal-like alien sprites called “the Fantasmen,” who require physical host bodies to fully exist, we’re introduced to a Fantasmen named Seraphim. He’s not here to “synch” with a human body, but rather, detain an evil force that has escaped from his home planet. Despite his lack of intention to find a host body, we’re given the impression that destiny has other plans for him: specifically Roisia, a corporate suit in need of (figurative) soul.
Like I said, once you get past Infodump Mountain at the beginning of issue #1, Dissonance shapes up rather interestingly. The idea of an empty human bonding with an amiable spirit like Seraphim could lead to some pretty fascinating themes and discussions of what it means to “be” human, especially since anti-Fastasmen activists are established as part of this particular world. The world is a pretty scary place in 2018, and science fiction like Dissonance is well-equipped to reflect it.
With an intriguing concept and fascinating visuals, Dissonance #1 proves it’s got more on its mind than merely being a comic book cash-in.