(Vertigo Comics, 2013)
Review by John Monaghan
WRITTEN BY: Simon Oliver
ARTWORK BY: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTWORK BY: Rico Renzi
LETTERING BY: Steve Wands
The premise of Collider is that the fabric of the universe is unstable: the fundamental laws of physics “that were chiselled into stone at the beginning of time… are not as permanent as we thought.” Physics anomalies spring up seemingly at random: time loops, wormholes, gravity failures. A “Federal Bureau of Physics” was formed to deal with these anomalies. Their job is, quite literally, to repair the fabric of the universe so that life may continue as normal. The main character, Adam, is an agent with the FBP and… well, shit starts to get real.
The first real set-piece of the comic is a touch of class from Simon Oliver. Collider opens with two pages set some time ago in Mexico, where the main character’s father, in a rushed and somewhat cryptic speech, which he is videotaping in case he cannot contact his family again, establishes that the laws of physics are not constant or certain in this world. Following this is a single page where we meet his son, Adam. These three pages set the tone for the rest of the issue. One of the most difficult things about first issues is introducing a setting, a number of characters, and whatever plot forwarding elements you have in a confined space without relying too heavily on captions or contrived expositional dialogue to introduce this world. While the comic opens with what is essentially an expositional monologue where a father is passing advice to his unborn son about how the laws of physics are not necessarily permanent, this monologue is not a clear or exhaustive explanation of the world, instead it is rushed, somewhat cryptic, and delivered against the backdrop of vague threat threat (‘in the off chance that something happens’). The threatened father’s speech some years ago fades into the son in the present day. We meet Adam as he has stopped to help an old woman fix her car, and then goes to ‘breakfast’ with her daughter: there is no urgency, no threat. The moody blues and purples, and gloomy green of the flashback have subsided to a pastel pink sky in the background. The threat of the first two pages, of imminent danger, of ‘a new era of discovery’ has subsided into the laid back, the every day. The next two pages mimic this form of tension-alleviation. Firstly we see a panicking, sweating principle calling 911. The operator asks him if the nature of his emergency is fire, ambulance, police, or physics. The suggested threat of a physics anomaly is alleviated over the page with a splash of floating students, one shouting ‘weeeee’, and the operator’s captioned call to the FBP: ‘We have approximately fifteen to twenty high school seniors making the most of a localized gravity failure’. Twice then, to contextualize the action of Collider we have the radical and game changing danger of randomly occurring physics anomalies – both for the characters who lived through the change (Adam’s father) and for the reader first encountering a word where this is the reality- being alleviated in the present. Collider is set in a world where these physics anomalies are totally normalized. I think this is a real touch of class.
As this is my first review for Bag & Bored I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’m going to stop the page-by-page spoilers at this point and leave it for you to read, which is a bit disappointing because there’s a decent amount I’d like to talk about.
What goes on to happen in the rest of the issue is a very clever reversal of this flow of tension-alleviation where the normalization of physics anomalies is deconstructed, and the tone of the comic essentially reset to those first pages set some years ago with the main characters father. The comic closes with the line ‘At that point we had no idea everything I and everyone else had grown so used to… was all about to change – again. Just like my father predicted.’
Collider #1 is a really clever, engaging, and well-paced book. There’s not really any group of people I can think of that I wouldn’t recommend it to, so get a hold of it. If you need any more incentive… there’s possibly a conspiracy going on, a shades-of-grey ‘double agent’ plot, and the possibility of another dimension ‘but not necessarily in the strictly classic sense’. Enough said.
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