Sean Mackiewicz, Editor-in-Chief of Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment, has stepped out of his editorial role and joined up with artist Niko Walter to co-create his own series under the Image Comics partner studio. Gasolina is a gritty, tense crime drama infused with a liberal dose of horror and heroism, as a young couple on the run through Mexico find themselves up against a brutal crime cartel whose cultish ways have unleashed a variety of horrific threats. Knowing he must amalgamate multiple genres as well as establish several characters early on, Mackiewicz skillfully constructs the story to provide a sampling of each, and succeeds in doing so without overwhelming or confusing readers before settling into subsequent chapters.
Walter constructs the first three pages of the series to fold in the elements of Mackiewicz story’s with a rich yet compact delivery. In this sequence, readers are introduced to both of the series’ main protagonists, are given an immediate indication of a disquieting menace, and are exposed to both the story’s seemingly quiet setting plus as its underlying sense of danger. Newlywed couple Amalia and Randy are also given genuine characterization via their dialogue, which not only establishes their situation and personalities, but also serves as a welcome and upfront indication that Mackiewicz’ players aren’t going to mere caricatures spouting trite clichés and posturing one-liners. Walter’s efficient execution of Mackiewicz’ script immediately conveys something else of utmost importance to readers, as well: that this series, simply put, is going to be pretty good.
Throughout the remainder of the first issue, the creators continue to unveil additional characters, adding a family dynamic to Amalia and Randy’s relationship while expanding on the characters’ depth. While the reasons for their status as fugitives remain to be explored, their brave and kindly natures clinch their likeability — while maybe seen as criminals wherever they came from, their deeds establish them as definitive good guys here, especially in a landscape filled with peril and corruption. All the while, the horror elements that evoke franchises like The Strain and Alien are given a fresh spin when combined with the desolate, remote setting of Mackiewicz’ story, and Walter gives plenty of peeks at the nature of these monsters to pepper the characterization with moments of creepiness.
Perhaps realizing that even well-constructed characterization and creepiness isn’t enough for some, Mackiewicz amps it up a bit in the series’ second issue, giving Walter an opportunity to show what he can do with gunfire and explosions on occasion. Mackiewicz’ low-key, darkened-room level of suspense is also complemented with intensity driven by other, more palpable threats that heighten the level of tension, as eerie discoveries are joined with direct confrontations between opposing sides. The story doesn’t just build on the elements of the first issue — it expands on them. Readers on the fence upon completion of the first issue stand to be among the converted by the end of the second.
With the board set up and all the players having found their place on it, Mackiewicz and Walter are free to punch the gas pedal come issue #3. The story’s pace picks up, giving the issue yet another flavor different from its predecessors, punctuated by a dark and disturbing look inside the cult-like beliefs of the villainous cartel. The exploration starts to link their inhuman — or unhuman — ways with the otherworldly creatures that now play a more proactive role in the story, moving beyond the role of a device to set up eye-catching mysteries. By the fourth issue, the story dynamic is fully in place, and with their worldbuilding complete, Mackiewicz and Walter have a spacious landscape in which to forge ahead.
Gasolina, presumably named for the burning of the farmland that’s become infested with creatures far more menacing than locusts, aptly starts off hot and only gets hotter as it revs up.
CBR received an advance look at the first four issues of Gasolina for this review. Gasolina #1 is scheduled for release on Sept. 20 from Skybound and Image Comics.