by Mark Mitchell & Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
Mark: Everyone in Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Daniel Irizarri’s beautiful Cloudia and Rex 1 is just trying to survive. For the deities like Death, Hypnos, and Ala, the threat to their existence is very literal; their entire plane of existence is under attack from Seraphim sent by the High Waveform as it looks to consolidate power and become the one, true God. For 13 year-old Cloudia, her younger sister Rex, and her mom, the threat is more existential. A close knit family, their ties are beginning to fray in the aftermath of Cloudia’s father’s death.
The two threats quickly become one, as Death has a plan to get all of the lower deities out of harm’s way by crossing into the mortal realm, and in the transfer he and the other gods end up bestowing their powers on Cloudia and her sister in exchange for help saving their world.
For her part, Cloudia is angry — angry at the loss of her dad, angry at her mom for making her move to a new city, angry about how utterly and undeservingly unfair life can sometimes be — and she lashes out at everyone around her. But deep down she loves her mom and sister, so when Death offers her family eternal life in exchange for her help, she hastily accepts. No bargain for immortality has ever worked out well in the end, but the pain of death has stung Cloudia’s family once, and the promise of never having to feel that hurt again is an enticing prospect. What teenager could understand that life’s value is magnified by being finite?
So much of the world of Cloudia and Rex 1 is brought together by Irizarri’s stunning color work. The issue opens with Cloudia’s family packing up their car for the long drive to their new home. As the sun sets on them, it casts the world in fiery orange and pink, like they’re being consumed by a low winter sun. Irizarri echoes this in the world of the gods, as their plane of existence is consumed by the Seraphim.
Later, the gods’ escape to Earth is used to foreshadow their arrival in Cloudia’s cell phone, as the piercing brightness of the Great Zurvan’s Memoriam gives way to the electric glow of a phone screen.
This is a beautiful, thoughtful start to Cloudia and Rex, and with two issues left in this mini-series there’s a lot to look forward to.
What’d you think, Ryan? It seems like the individual gods might make their abilities available to Cloudia through enchanted apps (for lack of a better term) on her phone, which is a fun detail. Were there any other details that stood out to you in the issue?
Ryan D: It is a cool detail, indeed, Mark, and re-reading the book after that reveal at the end made me appreciate all the more how the creative team built the phone throughout the issue. During my first read-through, I found myself curious as to why so many panels featured Cloudia’s phone, chalking it up to Farinas looking to show how the phone works as the escape mechanism for so many people — especially teens. While that commentary might be a subtextual reason for the phone’s inclusion, its use as a narrative device intrigues me. It can be tricky to pull off this kind of technology in any kind of medium, let alone in a static visual form like comics, but so far I think this creative team is doing it with aplomb.
But the details would not matter much without what I think is Cloudia and Rex’s strongest feature: its sense of playfulness. Take the introduction to the gods’ dimension, for example. It comes straight after the family in the car and throws us right into the midst of the High Waveform’s purgings.
What a huge leap to the unknown as the reader leaves the realm of the familiar into a panel of an absurd, many-eyed creature. The second panel shows the reader the skyline of this new world, replete with a milieu of architectural styles from various cultures and imaginary ones under siege from the Seraphim. The brothers in the bottom half of the page do a very good job of keeping the stakes high and the establish the urgency of the scene all while showing us what makes up this new universe.
The world building here feels very nice, with exposition not feeling heavy-handed or dolorous. The world itself is strange and new, leaving me wanting more. The character design is also a triumph. Each of the gods seems preposterous and distinct, and when Thanatos meets Ala, we understand that in the given circumstances exists a rich tapestry of interactions between the deities in this other realm. It almost feels like a child dreamed it all up, and I mean that in a good way.
A lot of what we see in this title is just plain charming. From Thanatos feeding his brother a chicken leg to how the gods think the cell phone is an enchanted horn, this title made me feel warm and included in the storytelling, which is a tremendous experience to have and one which very few comics give me. I love how Rex chose to be a wooly rhinoceros out of all of the creatures she could imagine. I love the narrative potential within the girls getting more powers from different gods as they level up during this quest to come. I love the teen angst. While there are many technical aspects at play within this comic — like the lovely use of colors Mark mentioned — I think the most impressive achievement is its ability to make the reader feel something after consuming this issue, and I, for one, am keen to see how this journey of survival plays out.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?