When The Discipline was announced, writer Peter Milligan described it as the “edgiest story I’ve written.” He’s not wrong.
What seems at first glance to be an exercise in the increasingly popular erotic thriller genre quickly takes a welcome turn into the esoteric and mystical realms in which Milligan truly thrives.
Melissa is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who has managed to land in what many would call the perfect life. She has a husband with a great job, lives in an amazing apartment, and dines at the finest establishments with sophisticated people. Sure, there are the usual problems such as marital disinterest and family discord, but hers is an existence which most people would trade for.
Still, she is missing something, and that emptiness is what piques the interest of a mystery man she meets at an art gallery. Without spoiling the journey of the first issue, there is a great deal more to his seduction of her than pure physical lust. What that interest will fully entail has yet to be revealed, but the road should be an intriguing one.
Milligan’s script for this first issue does a splendid job of laying the foundation for what will come down the road. Melissa seems incredibly real, something which stands in stark contrast to the supernatural surreality of her mysterious companion. It is obvious that he is different from anything else she has encountered in her life, the details of which are sure to be explored as the series progresses. From a structural standpoint, it hums along at a tremendous clip, moving through exposition and the early rising action of the super-arc quite well, with a neatly contained three-act structure to the issue itself. This substructure within the larger arc should help each issue of The Discipline capture readers’ attention, even if it necessitates spending less time than some might desire on fleshing out the larger world.
The first installment is very much set-up. This is not to say that it lacks action or thrust, but that it focuses primarily on developing the reader’s interest in Melissa as a person. We see the mundanity of her life on full display. Despite having everything the material world has to offer, she is dissatisfied. It is that dissatisfaction which makes her prey to the mysterious organization which is pursuing her. The nature of that organization, or its opposition, are not immediately clear from the first issue. If the first issue of The Discpline has a major failing, it is that the story feels somewhat disconnected. All of the elements of the series’ super-arc are introduced, but none of them are explained in any great detail. Exposition is eschewed in favor of enhancing the sense of mystery for the audience and the protagonist. There is a certain breathlessness to this approach which pulls the reader into the same sort of confusion and apprehension experienced by Melissa. In collected format, this first chapter will likely read much better than it does as a periodical, where the audience now has to wait at least a month for any hope of of explanation to be offered.
Artistically, The Discipline is incredibly smooth. Leandro Fernandez line art has a sweeping, sensuous quality which lends itself splendidly to Milligan’s erotic script. While his figures may lack specificity in certain instances, this appears to be by design, as he sprinkles in incredibly intricate details throughout, drawing the reader’s focus precisely where he wants it. The generic quality which many of the images possess seems intended to showcase the blandness of the mundane world in which Melissa exists at the onset of the story, with the panels becoming increasingly specific the deeper she goes into the mystical world she has begun to enter.
The first issue of The Discipline is a bit of a tease. It offers up a taste of the dark, mystical, sensuous world which the series will explore without delivering on the promise by the last page. Peter Milligan is obviously going for the “always leave ’em wanting more” approach, and in that he succeeds admirably. Aided by the delightfully smooth, clean art work of Leandro Fernandez, Milligan has delivered an excellent first installment in what should be a tremendously fascinating, edgy series, earning a truly exciting 9/10.