It’s the Old West revisited on a new planet in Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein’s “Drifter” #1, where a space traveler crash lands on a lawless backwater world only to find trouble immediately upon arriving. Brandon frontloads most of the excitement at the start of the issue, before events settle down into more of a standard western vibe, albeit with an otherworldly twist, which Klein beautifully pulls off, amalgamating the dusty environment of a remote settlement town with the rusty, banged-up high tech of “Star Wars.” The overall result is an uneven but interesting mashup, capped off with a somewhat surprising cliffhanger.
With an undoubtedly significant contribution from designer Tom Muller, Brandon and Klein make a successful grab for attention with an ominous-looking splash evoking a futuristic computerized display that starkly captures the gravity of the situation readers are thrown into. If the nature of the setting isn’t clear after page one, it certainly is upon flipping to page two, another splash that’s beautifully colored by Klein, accompanied by one very simple but highly effective four-word caption from Brandon that boldly clarifies exactly what has just happened.
From there, it’s an Indiana Jones-style, fast-paced frenzy, as the protagonist escapes one potentially fatal situation only to find himself caught up in a series of subsequent others. When the excitement comes to a halt, though, it largely stops for the remainder of the issue as the other characters are introduced. After succeeding in hooking readers, Brandon doesn’t give them much after the first act; there’s no harm in slowing down, but it’s essentially Klein’s visuals that carry the story from this point on. There are some off-sounding bits of dialogue, like “Meet a girl likes to look in your eyes, it’ll fix what’s wrong in you,” and “Law here’s a relative concept. But I got two hands” only draw attention to the disparity between the first nine pages and the rest; Brandon’s brisk, to-the-point narration early on gives way to more clumsy conversations later.
Conversely, Klein’s art stays strong throughout, highlighted by a stunning double-pager that convincingly looks like 19th-Century Hill Valley meets Mos Eisley Spaceport. The world outside town looks exactly like the hostile and barren landscape that Brandon’s story conveys, and sunset in the alien mountains is both gorgeous and creepy. When the story returns to the scene where the story began, Klein’s colors heighten the surprise that Brandon delivers on the final page.
“Drifter” #1 is a good selling point for the series, although it waivers after making its pitch. Regardless, both Brandon and Klein give enough reason to return for issue #2.