Warning: Like any after release review, there will be spoilers for part of the plot for “Deep State #1” in this review.
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Ariela Kristantina
The hardest part of reviewing is always going to be the score. No matter how much I try to think about it, at the end of the day all that matters is the score to some people. I can say some nice things about a story and how it tries hard and does new things, but, if I give it a five out of ten everyone is going to think I hate it. Honestly there are very few comics I hate and Deep State is not one of them. I do, however, wish it was just a little bit better.
The pitch for Deep State is a good one, but also something you’ve heard before: a clandestine government agency exists to keep the public from knowing about secrets that have to be kept from the public for their own safety. A man in black comes to our naive but earnest protagonist and offers her a job with what is essentially Men in Black or X-Files or take your pick. Yawn, I’ve heard it before, but at the same time the story grabbed me from the first cover-up. *Here are the spoilers* It turns out that in 1964 the Russians actually beat us to the moon. Unfortunately they found something up there of nefarious origins and it is the job of our agency to take them down. *End of spoilers*
I actually quite like the setup and it’s executed with a well-placed, nice and creepy tone. Unfortunately the writing is riddled with cliches. I get that the story is being kind of tongue-in-cheek about its use of cliches but when a story sacrifices character at the expense of seeming cool that is when I start to get turned off. So, honestly, I’m fine with the fact that the main character starts off researching a cold case that her angry sergeant tells her to “let go” of. I’m fine that a man in shadows creeps into her apartment and says things like, “I work for an organization that, if I’ve done my job right, you’ve never heard of.” I’m fine with all of these tried and true story tropes as long as I get a feel for real characters. Unfortunately, with “Deep State #1”, I don’t. Neither of the two main characters appeal to me in any way and if I had to pick a word other than mysterious to describe her new boss, I would be at a loss.
The artwork in the story is fine but feels a little bit rushed. Artist Ariela Kristantina is a burgeoning new voice and I feel is a talented one working under some new deadlines. The work feels sketchy but well paced. Some of the characters could use more facial work ,though because at times it could be hard to tell who was who. Probably the stand-out artist on the team has to be Ben Wilsonham, the colorist, and you know he has to be good because colorists almost never get called out. He really manages to make space look full and interesting which isn’t always the easiest thing to do and practically saves Ariela’s artwork.
All in all “Deep State #1” isn’t a bad book. It isn’t a book I would advise against. Hell, I’ll even buy the second issue. But ultimately I can’t give it too high of a score; it’s not ambitious enough to be noteworthy and not well executed enough to power through its own cliches. However I know enough about conspiracy theories to know that everything is not always what it seems at first glance.
“Deep State #1” earns 6/10