A Review by Christoph Staffl
The first thing you will probably notice after you open Contact High on your iPad or computer is the format. The creators present the story not only in a landscape format, but it also has a cinematic scope to it. It reminds me of the 21:9 format you get from some movies.
The format alone is very incredible because, with the unusual dimensions, you have a broader view of the characters and their surroundings. And the way the creators use this space in Contact High is very creative. Especially one page, I want to talk about a bit later – never before have I seen such an impressive technique in this context.
But first things first: what is the comic about? Since Contact High is a one-shot, I will be very vague about it so that you can experience it as fresh as possible. Then you can be taken entirely by surprise by the main character’s journey. However, I can talk about the world.
Contact High is a sci-fi story and therefore takes place somewhere in the future. The human race has evolved to a seemingly skilled and efficient species. To achieve that goal they have erased one element of our existence. An element many of us wouldn’t want to miss: to touch another human being.
To makes things worse, the law forbids to do so, because any skin-on-skin contact has the potential for sickness, infections and ultimately, death. Everybody wears — sorry — has to wear a full bodysuit plus helmet to protect each other. Even accidentally touching another human being is followed by intense procedures. If you break this law, you are taken to a “special place” where they scan you (for being touched) and where you can think about your behavior. It is truly terrifying — especially the reasoning behind it all.
Most one-shots like this (or short stories in general) tell a story of a single protagonist in a confined location. There is not much room for introducing a whole cast, plus their problems, and then developing them through the course of the story. But the creators of Contact High can do so much with this one character, who just does not want to obey the system. It is remarkable.
He is taken to this facility and intends to reach a goal to flee finally. There is one page, in particular, I cannot stop thinking about. It is hard to describe (and I would love to see the script of this page), but I’ll try anyway. You probably know the setting from movies. A character has to escape from somewhere without being detected and therefore sneaks around. Confusing hallways, guards talking to each other, the hero looking for the next move.
This is the purpose of the page I mentioned above. You get a lot of information about the facility: an idea of just how big it is, the arrangement of the rooms. Put simply: the construction of it. This way you don’t get lost, when our character moves through the hallways. Avoiding the guards. In addition to that, you get a lot of information about the other “guests” who are there, what the guards do to them, and how they spend the rest of their time. It is really astounding what they manage to do on this single page. For this alone, you should buy the comic.
Obviously, there are a lot of silent panels as well. Since we have just one main character and the rest are guards or something like that, we get most of the information about him through body language. How is he behaving? How does he handle the pressure? What are the few words he says? How does he say them? This and the reactions to his actions tell a lot about him. Who he might have been before all of this and how he feels.
Buy it! What I am trying to say through all this vague information is: I love this comic. I read it twice already, and each time it is heartbreaking. What Josh Eckert, James F. Wright, and their team are able to do here is impressive. I want to know more about the character, about this world. How did it come so far and where does the journey go?
You can buy a digital copy of Contact High for just 5$ on Gumroad. All proceeds go to charity: 50% to Lambda Legal, and 50% to the Southern Poverty Law Center.