With an assist on the script from Mike Johnson and lettering from Nate Piekos, Rafael Albuquerque’s “Ei8ght” #1 gives readers a story of his own creation and brings along a dinosaur, just for fun.
“Follow the dinosaur” winds up being one of the clues for the story as Joshua tries to figure out who he is, where he is and why he’s there. Joshua is the apparent protagonist of “Ei8ht” #1, sent on a mission through time (and space?) in exchange for a portion of a deal to be completed. Readers aren’t given the full scope of the deal, nor does Albuquerque identify every single piece on the board. He gives readers just enough to stay afloat in this fast-paced mystery and that puts the readers right alongside the protagonist.
The polished sketchiness that readers have come to love in Albuquerque’s “American Vampire” work fills the pages of “Ei8ht” #1 with a strong emphasis on emotion, action and reaction. One spread with nine panels and five characters covers a significant chunk of human facial expressions as Joshua and the readers meet Nila and her crew. In addition to his fine drawings, Albuquerque handles the colors in this comic book. Constructed through layers, those colors have wash and brush-like qualities, adding depth beyond Albuquerque’s lines and shading. The palette is purposefully kept tight to help accentuate the predicaments and interactions, and Albuquerque masterfully alternates between detailed backdrops and white space to convey the tension.
The color clues handed out at the onset of “Ei8ht” #1 help decipher the timeline of this story, which is less “line” and more “gargantuan knot.” Unencumbered by persistent location markers, Albuquerque spreads out his art, pours in the shadows and lights up the page. Piekos adapts the word balloons to fit the time period ever so slightly, but in a manner that works magnificently with Albuquerque’s art.
Albuquerque and Johnson don’t bungle around with exposition in “Ei8ht” #1. Instead, they choose to give readers snippets as the point-of-view character begins to gather his senses. We learn of the dinosaur as Joshua does but don’t have any more familiarity with what it means than he does. The script masterfully builds in suspense and anxiety, packing them all around the time-travel/dimensional exploration at the heart of this book.
Albuquerque doesn’t introduce us to the Meld or the inhabitants therein in a dainty manner; the book simply says, “Here you go. Let’s rock.” And rock is exactly what “Ei8ht” #1 does with snappy dialogue, eye-catching scenery and a mystery as deep as twenty-two pages can accommodate. This world Albuquerque offers to share with us is interesting enough that I cannot wait for more.