Seven people stand in a field and perform some kind of magical rite. Ten years later they have all the success one could dream of; they are rich, famous, and from the looks of things, being devoured from the inside out by their own inadequacies and by whatever cost came along with the bargain they made. That’s the premise of The Forevers #1, the debut issue from writer Curt Pires and artist Eric Scott Pfeiffer, and it’s a captivating, unsettling and wonderfully grimy issue that recalls the best books of the era where Vertigo defined weird and counterculture comics.
The story centres around the seven people who performed that rite, though in this issue we only definitively focus on four of them. Pires and Pfeiffer don’t lay everything out on a platter, preferring instead to give us snatches of these peoples’ lives, which in turn seem both fabulous and totally empty. There’s a sense that while this rite has given them status and power and wealth and fame, it’s also robbed them of meaning and connection. But there’s an ambiguity to the storytelling that doesn’t allow the issue to feel facile or moralizing. The issue never shies away from the ugliest side of their lives, presenting a reality that allows you to flirt with finding them all to be unlikable, while still appreciating and identifying with their frailty.
The Forevers #1 reminds me a lot of Grant Morrison’s work, of course. He’s kind of the definitive comic book writer when it comes to marrying black magic and the modern age, when it comes to explorations of modern moral bankruptcy alongside a feeling of cutting edge now-ness. The design of the book reminds me in some way of “The Filth,” while also capturing the psychedelic counterculture deep dive that was “The Invisibles.” Obviously that’s a lot to lay on the first issue of a new series, but this book feels honestly weird and singular and grimy in a way that I haven’t seen in a while.
The characters are well-developed, even in the short amount of time we get with them, even the cliche of the drugged-out rock star feels a bit more nuanced and specific than we’ve seen. Pires deserves some accolades by communicating, say, a character’s ennui in a short collection of vignettes including a movie premiere, a party, an anonymous sexual encounter and something darker. He’s not afraid to let the script and his characters become unsettling, vulgar and even off-putting. But that just makes them feel more interesting than if you played it safe. And he uses a couple of epilogues well to inject a conspiratorial sense of dread into the proceedings that create the necessary intrigue to bring readers back for more.
The art by Pfeiffer is just gorgeous. Painterly but with a digital feel that gives it a cutting edge vitality, there’s an expressionistic vibe that really gives the issue a unique tone and style. The last act of the issue features dual storylines playing simultaneously and staged wonderfully through the layout, if a tad on the nose. But the writing of this section feels ambitious and the final drawing manages to nail the impact. It’s bold, but doesn’t feel wanky. The only complaint I have is couple of characters are clearly folded off of photo references of some famous people, and that always kind of irritates me. But it’s a minor thing when compared to all the other great stuff on display.
All in all, The Forevers #1 feels like a a calling card of what could wind up being the new cult series. It remains to be seen, of course, if the story to come lives up to the arty but trashy feel of this first issue, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to come back for more, and this is a welcome throwback to the kind of nakedly subversive supernatural pop-culture comic that went out of style when Karen Berger left Vertigo. But we could use more books as weird, trashy and gorgeous as this one, so I’m gladly giving it a 9.5/10.
The Forevers #1 will be released Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016.