by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
…there is no new thing under the sun.
It’s unfortunate that pointing out that something isn’t entirely original is seen as a critique. In this postmodern age of the remix, surely we can all understand that nothing is “entirely original,” or at least isn’t made from entirely original parts. As with cooking, the excitement lies more in how the individual ingredients interact with one another than any one ingredient’s novelty. Such is the case with Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici’s new Oblivion Song, which smashes together several familiar premises and character motivations, but manages to produce something surprisingly refreshing.
I mean, “city lost to alien dimension” and “protagonist driven by the loss of a (perhaps rescuable) loved one” are decidedly well-worn, stretching back to at least the myths of Atlantis and Orpheus (respectively), but when used in combination, we get a premise that isn’t quite what we’ve seen before. It’s not cleanly about loss or redemption, but about the coexistence of the two.
It helps that Kirkman and De Felici are judicious with their exposition. We meet our hero (and his rescuees) in Oblivion — the “alien dimension” I mentioned earlier — where it’s not entirely clear he’s helping anyone.
We can tell that the monster is just trying to eat everyone, but it’s really not clear what the man with the gun is doing, though the darts he’s firing make people disappear in a “FWASH” of electronic crackle. The terror in the faces of the couple fleeing from him makes it seem like his goals might be nefarious, but we’re mostly left with questions.
So when Kirkman starts doling out answers later in the issue, w’re ready for them. We learn that these people are trapped in an alien dimension that mysteriously scooped up their neighborhood (a la The Woods), that that happened over a decade ago, and that that gunman is Nathan Cole, and he’s rescuing people from Oblivion — perhaps in the hopes of also rescuing his brother. We get more details as the issue proceeds, but those broad strokes are deployed in a way that never feels patronizing or obvious.
And that’s before we get to the twist that Nathan’s brother is still alive, and has become a leader of survivors in Oblivion, all of whom are suspicious of the mysterious gunman that makes survivors disappear. The tension that sets up will hopefully be short-lived — one of those problems that could be solved if that couple Nathan rescued at the start of the issue thought to mention it, or if Nathan’s approach to rescuing had him say or do anything besides point a rifle at the survivors — but it makes for a fun enough twist to bring me back.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
It’s funny, the thing that struck me the most about this comic (which was fine. I’ll look at a few more issues to see where it goes) was the author’s comments in the back.
Twelve issues are done. Thirty issues are planned and plotted. Kirkman is in a unique place for a creator where he can take the time to do all of this and have a plan for almost 3 years of comics before issue one even comes out. Not a lot of creators have that kind of sway where they can just say, “Yeah, we’ve got this set for 5 arcs, you won’t believe how awesome it’s going to be,” and everyone is just like, “Ok, sounds good.”
Whatever you think about Kirkman and the stuff he’s done, he’s got the chance to do exactly what he wants as long as he wants now. There’s not too many creators in comics that could even think about saying stuff like that.