Written by Shaun Manning (who has contributed to CBR since 2006) with art from Anna Wieszczyk, “Interesting Drug” draws at least a small bit of inspiration from the Morrissey song of the same title and even goes so far as to have the lead character sing along in the context of the story. The lead character is Andrew Smith, a mild-mannered Best Buy employee with little to no aspirations of being anything else.
Manning wastes no time in getting to the crux of the story, giving readers only enough information to know who Andrew is before endearing him to readers along the way. Andrew is an everyman who finds himself in a situation that calls upon his knowledge and skills, forcing him to reach beyond his comfort zone, but fully taxing him to his limits. He’s not the pinnacle of heroism in “Interesting Drug,” but he certainly provides readers with a sympathetic character. At no point, however, does Manning guarantee the safety of Andrew or the rest of the tightly-knit cast, which includes Andrew’s ex-girlfriend, Melissa; his sister, Sarah; and his gal-pal, Leilani, who serves as Andrew’s support throughout the story, acting as a sounding board for Andrew and a surrogate for the reader. Tristram Lang, the series’ antagonist, who also serves as Andrew’s muse and inspiration, might more appropriately be described as the devil on Andrew’s shoulder pushing him in directions he’d do well not to follow.
Tristram leads Andrew to mass-produce Chro-Noz, a drug that seemingly allows the user to travel through time. The catch is that the user can only travel along their own timeline and, at least at the beginning of “Interesting Drug,” cannot affect history. Readers quickly learn the last bit is truly what drives Andrew to continue working on Chro-Noz, as the drug gains popularity to the point of becoming a newsworthy epidemic. Manning stirs in the drama of the D.E.A. sniffing around for the source of Chro-Noz and also drops the story right into Andrew’s lap, ratcheting up the drama and elevating the action of this story.
As with seemingly all Archaia products, the art and the packaging draw the readership in and the story itself finds a way to grip the reader and yank them in. Wieszczyk is given a story that invites her to deliver visuals in a variety of styles, shaded in a wild range of hues. Wieszczyk does everything from collage to classic comic book art and uses textures and styles ranging from manga to watercolor. The first chapter of this four-chapter book is considerably more visually detailed than the rest, but the shift in detail and the choice to use a more expressive style and palette reflects the emotional tenor of “Interesting Drug” as the tension builds up and Andrew’s world changes around him while the readers press on. Not every page is a frameable masterpiece, but Wieszczyk makes a series of solid creative choices throughout. The story frees the artist up for a wider range of creative choices and Wieszczyk does not limit herself.
“Interesting Drug” is an interesting story. Manning and Wieszczyk pair up nicely, delivering a story that goes much deeper than the elevator pitch would indicate. You don’t have to be a Morrissey fan to enjoy the story, nor do you have to be a drugee or slacker to relate to the characters. Archaia has found another gem in the comic book industry and they’ve done a fine job packaging it up for everyone to enjoy. “Interesting Drug” is a story that defies time constraints and offers readers an imaginative escape with a solid caper and strong sense of adventure to fuel it.