Written by: Justin Jordan
Published by: Image Comics
This sophomore offering from Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm is probably exactly what readers that enjoyed the first issue were hoping it would be. “Spread #2” picks up Hope and No’s tale and continues to explain the danger the two face from the Spread but also from other humans. This is a bleak comic book and Strahm’s dreary, apocalyptic wasteland is the exceeding highlight so far.
Jordan doesn’t have a huge resume but he’s written some seriously rad comics. I loved his limited series Dead Body Road from earlier this year and adore The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode, the limited series that was the launchpad for his career. This series lacks the dynamic and empathetic characters that populated those series, though, and struggles to harness an emotional connection to the reader. A series is only as strong as its characters, and this book doesn’t have a compelling cast at the moment. The cool horror concept will carry it for awhile, but Jordan needs to bring his usual wit and charm to bear on this book or risk having characters are barren as the setting. No is a stoic character and a man of few words, a direction that seems consistent with the world Jordan and Strahm have built. But typically those characters don’t engage us in the same way as those that are more open and honest with us. I’m concerned that Spread is going to rely too heavily on Hope’s narration in the early going and thus lose readers who see it as a weak imitation of Saga.
In the essay after the issue Jordan acknowledges that readers may notice the various influences or similarities between Spread and other popular comics, movies, or video games. What Spread doesn’t have in common with those influences is that it hasn’t been able to surpass them. It’s a lot to ask only two issues in, but this series needs to distinguish itself quickly because being just another “good story” using popular conventions isn’t going to be enough to surpass Jordan’s past accomplishments. Saga does the infant narrator better. The Last of Us does a girl being the last hope for mankind better. The Walking Dead does post-apocalyptic wasteland better. This series needs to do something better than anything else, and we’re not seeing that emerge yet. If this is accomplished expect rumblings about the various things this series “borrows” to fade into the mist. (For the record: I have no allusions that Jordan and Strahm intentionally copy-catted anything about this tale, but they have chosen to use similar conventions and devices as other stories and thus are forcing us as consumers to compare their product to the other.)
Strahm’s visuals manage to wade away from directly comparable influences. This issue is at its best when the Spread are laying waste to everything in sight and we’re treated to spectacular images. The haunting visage of these monsters and they’re thoughtlessly dreadful onslaught ensures you’re gripping the arms of your chair as No, Hope, and Molly escape. Occasionally panels are framed at awkward angles and some eyes come out a little googly, but neither of these problems pose any real detriment when reading. I really like the colour contrast used in this series as the bleak and mostly snowy backgrounds make characters pop off the page. Likewise, the Spread in their disgusting blood red glory command your eye whenever they hit the page. While there are some major concerns about the characters and plot going forward, at the very least you can bank on the art being arresting and impressive.
Strong art has kept this young series from being a disappointment so far. Strahm is buying time for the story to develop into something more interesting. Weak characters make this fast-paced story less impacting than it should be. There are so many great comics coming out every week that young comics really must excel in the early going in order to distinguish themselves from the pack, and I’m not sure that this series has done enough of that yet. It’s not unreasonable to expect better from this team going forward, as they are talented enough to deliver something better than this.
“Spread #2” earns 6.6 / 10