Imagine one day you woke up to discover you had been given a tremendous gift. No, not something wrapped in a box with a nice little bow on top, but some great power that you didn't have the day before. That's the basic premise behind Image's "The Gift" by Raven Gregory. As he told us last December, a mysterious figure called The Ancient One or Enoch goes around bequeathing these great powers to people, but there's always an unintended consequence that comes along with the said gift. But, imagine if that gift was given to someone who didn't use it for good? That's the basic premise behind the 13th issue of the series by Gregory with art by Rich Bonk and Sonia Oback, with a cover by Tyler Kirkham. We caught up with Gregory to find out what he's cooked up for his readers.
"If you take a look at the cover, there's a particular image on the cover that I've never seen in any form of media before and it's going to have a lot of people talking," Gregory told CBR News about "The Gift" #13. "The basis of the story is, everyone knows the story of Spider-Man and the whole 'with great power comes great responsibility' angle. Well, the kid in this story is a nerdy kid who's been picked on his whole life and he's going to receive absolute power. There will literally be nothing he cannot do. Unlike in the superhero universe where you always see people take the high road, this kid is not going to take the high road. This is the story of the kid who's completely fed up of being treated like dirt and gets the power to do whatever he wants and when he lashes out everyone pays the price.
"We also see the return of Lucius Sephar (the kid from issue 10) and learn how much his destiny and that of the Ancient (Enoch) One's are intertwined. "
Lucius Sephar was the kid in the background of issue #10 that kept getting beaten throughout much of the issue. But as readers discovered at the end of the issue, he's much more than he first appears to be. "He has a history with the Ancient One that will be fully revealed in the next issue," said Gregory.
This issue of "The Gift" might be the one that shocks his readers the most according to Gregory, but it wasn't done so with that intent. He had plans to tell this story since early on in the series. "As readers we get so used to seeing our heroes and villains respond and act like comic book characters instead of how real people would act," said Gregory. "This is that story that every kid ever picked on in high school wants told, or thinks in the back of their minds in that dark dirty corner where dark things dwell. Things that most people would never even admit to, but it's there. Hopefully this story gives enough release that something like this never has to happen. Violence is never the answer to any problems. As cliché as it sounds, it's the truth. But sometimes we need to vent, and get out that pain before it becomes something we cannot control. I think of lot of kids or adults who have been humiliated, abused, and degraded keep that shit buried inside them and don't let it out in a positive way. After a while it starts to eat away at you and that's when bad shit can happen. In that effect this story is very important to me."
In additional to the child mentioned above, "The Gift" #13 also sees the introduction of a new foe that is going to do everything in his power to stop the Ancient One from accomplishing his goals. "When this kid gets this power, it changes the whole balance of the series and throws everything into a full speed race into where all this has been building to. Even if you can't believe it now, the world of 'The Gift' is about to get much much darker. Nothing will be the same. The status quo is about to change for the worse and all the consequences of the choices made earlier in the series are about to all come full circle."
If you find the story described above seems to parallel stories of school shootings in the United States in recent years, Gregory says that's similarity isn't lost on him, but the writer said the news really didn't play too much of a part in the creation of "The Gift" #13. "To be honest with you, I can't really even remember when I came up with the story itself, only that, like with most issues, I try to take things that I have dealt with over the years and put a unique twist on it. I think everyone has dealt with the bully at one time or another and wanted to do something about it, but for whatever reason didn't. So it wasn't very hard to pull from my experiences in high school and turn it into issue #13. I think that's another reason why this particular issue is so important to me. I want people to read this issue (especially younger readers) and know that other people have gone through these same things. That it doesn't last forever, even though it seems like it does. That is really the whole point of doing this issue. To show you can vent and not go over that line that we see kids crossing in the news each and every year. That's also the reason why there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book. I, in no way, condone high school violence and the story is in no way meant to be interpreted that way. What happens in society is horrible enough as it is, and we as creators have to find a way to reach the kids that need to be reached. Because what ever it is, what we as society are doing isn't working. If it was, we wouldn't keep seeing it on the news every year. I have two kids (4 and 8) and this is the world they are going to grow up in and it terrifies me."
Traditionally, each story told in "The Gift" comes with a moral lesson in hand, but Gregory said this issue of the series is very much unlike the rest. "One of the things about writing is you always have to be one step ahead of the reader," said Gregory. "If the reader knows what's going to happen, they'll get bored and move on to something else. 'The Gift' has become known for having that moral or that twist that no one expects or sees coming. So with this issue, things end a tad bit different than people are expecting. There is a moral to all the stories, but this is not a normal 'The Gift' story as people will soon see. There's also the fact of who this kid really is. The story really couldn't have ended any other way."
For those of you looking for more info on the Ancient One, Gregory says issue #14 of the series will feature his origin and begin to answer many of the questions his reader have. "The Gift" #13 hits comic shop shelves September 28th.