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Namesake #1, the debut issue of the new creator-owned series by writer Steve Orlando and artist Jakub Rebelka, may take place in a crazy future society where Earth and a world ruled by magic have to coexist, but at its heart it’s a story about the complicated and fraught relationship between parents and their kids. It’s the mixture of the unique world the creators craft with the emotional strength of the central character’s dilemma that make the book a strong opening chapter with a lot of promise.
Jordan Molossus lives on Earth where he works as a firefighter. Once every seven years, Earth overlaps with the world Ektae, a planet ruled by magic and alchemy. When the breach occurs, the people of Ektae cross over and the result is a chaotic merging of magic and science and cultures. Jordan’ s birth is the result of one of these breaches, and his lack of belonging to either world, coupled with a troubled past, have made him an angry man. When forced to confront his past and his fraught relationship to his parents, Jordan makes a fateful decision that sends him on a world-hopping quest. But will he survive? And will the journey bring him peace?
There’s no denying that Orlando and Rebelka have created a world rich in detail and vibrant with life. It’s a dense, fascinating place that feels lived in and strange, with rules and customs that are more implied than explained outright. But while the tone of the world owes a lot to video games, science fiction and dark fantasy, the story itself evokes a quest narrative with a western twist. Jordan is a laconic and tight-lipped kind of hero, one who is tough and quick to anger. There’s a coiled knot of damage at his core that has made him a survivor, and he has that Western heroic quality that boils down to “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” Even if the motivation for his journey is a personal one motivated more by feeling than reason, it doesn’t change the fact that Jordan knows he’s got to do it.
But while Jordan’s story is very much a classic archetype of heroic quest, Orlando takes the opportunity to make him a non-normative character. Of course, that results in a fresh and unique feel, but Orlando never allows Jordan’s non-normative qualities to become the focus of the book. Rather, he writes Jordan as a normal character dealing with life in a normal way, because he is. The fact that he’s not a straight man isn’t a defining aspect of the book any more than straight action heroes are defined by their sexuality. I imagine that’s probably how many LGBTQ readers would want to see themselves reflected back; in the same way these character aspects are dealt with for straight characters. It’s neither an unimportant part of the book, nor a defining force, but Orlando’s approach is sadly uncommon, so hopefully it’s a harbinger of things to come more frequently to comics.
The art by Rebelka is nice and full of atmosphere. I will say there are times when the level of detail in the art fluctuates a little. Some scenes see figures and backgrounds drawn with a high attention to detail, and then other scenes, such as the ones of Jordan at home, come across as a bit unfinished and undefined. When Namesake #1 is drawn with the higher level of detail, with the focus on the weird worlds we find ourselves in, or on the action pieces, the book comes alive with a European style that evokes a kind of “Blade Runner” meets “Final Fantasy” vibe. I just wish the issue was bit more even in its approach.
All in all, Namesake #1 succeeds based on the unusual world it creates, the complicated character at its heart, and effectiveness of its classical quest narrative. The combination of the innovative and the familiar means that there’s more than enough here to bring you back for issue #2, and promises a lot to come. 8/10.