After a promising debut, “Colder” #2 by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra loses story momentum as its supernatural horror and budding character relationships become mired in clunky world-building.
The story picks up after the cliffhanger ending of “Colder” #1 and introduces readers to The Hungry World, in which Declan has powers that are related to his unusual temperature in the regular world. Tobin has created an original relationship between fire, cold and madness, and his particular take on mental parasitism is given theatrical flesh and flair by Ferreyra’s detailed visuals of a withered wasteland and its denizens. Ferreyra’s colors are also effective in creating mood through the contrast of the spring-like green and pale yellow sunshine of the outdoors to the gray and red of The Hungry World and the nighttime blues and purples of Declan’s past.
However, Tobin reveals these worlds in “Colder” #2 through a Q&A between the two main characters. Almost all of “Colder” #2 consists of Reece incredulously asking questions that boil down to “What is going on?” and Declan’s replies. Ferreyra’s drawings Reece’s facial expressions feel exaggerated, because her constant repetitions of shock and disbelief lack force after the tenth repetition. Declan speaks with unrealistic alacrity and fluidity for a man who hasn’t used his voice or words for years, and dialogue between him and Reece loads up the reader with information without contributing to action or characterization. The lack of a natural rhythm in the characters’ dialogue also lowers the stakes of the horror, by taking the reader out of the story and lessening attachment to the characters.
Having an empowered supernatural character take a normal character for a ride through dimensions or through time worked for Charles Dickens, but it has lost power as a narrative strategy, because there is little doubt that the tag-along character will be transported back to the real world.
Furthermore, the pacing of narrative revelation feels odd in “Colder” #2. Declan’s powers to transport Reece to various locations are still unexplained, as are Nimble Jack and Declan’s respective powers in the real world and in the Hungry World. The villain, Nimble Jack, makes an appearance, but his history and his relationship to Declan is still nebulous by the end of “Colder” #2. Tobin is holding revelations about Jack in reserve until a later issue, but the consequence is that Jack’s diminished role in “Colder” #2 feels anticlimactic, especially after the compressed, shocking opener of the first issue. However, the second, quieter tragedy of “Colder” #2 is given emotional punch by Ferreyra’s composition and the Jack’s cold and carefree dismissal of his victim. Reece’s tour of the abuses and horrors of early 20th century mental health care is also horrific because Tobin isn’t stretching the truth that far and Ferreyra’s art is especially graphic during these scenes.
The dialogue in “Colder” #2 that is not burdened with world-building is much more appealing, and it is frequently enhanced by Tobin’s back humor. Nimble Jack is as repulsive, energetic and magnetically dramatic as he was in first appearance. Also, Tobin’s dialogue for the mental inmates is hilarious in an offbeat way, with one inmate offering Reece some fire, prefaced by “Do you like the fire? I do. It’s eating everything.”
Overall, “Colder” #2 stumbles due to its narrative structure, but Tobin and Ferreyra’s content is still fresh and unusual. With the information dump out of the way, perhaps the remainder of “Colder” will showcase more of Tobin’s characterization and humor strengths while maintaining Ferreyra’s artistic atmosphere and detail.