In 2014, Shahara Hasan’s beat finds a corpse in an alleyway following a protest. In 1890, Edmond Hillinghead stumbles across a body that doesn’t fit Jack the Ripper’s M.O. In 2050, Maplewood struggles to find the words to identify a murder victim. In 1940, corrupt cop Charles Whiteman faces a corpse after narrowly escaping an air raid. In “Bodies” #1, Si Spencer and his art team — Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay and Phil Winslade, respectively — unite four time periods and four genres through a series of bizarre, identical murders. Though some of these jumps work better than others, “Bodies” sets up an intriguing, interlocking murder mystery that capitalizes on the visual nature of its medium.
“Bodies'” ability to leap through time, which drives the machinations behind the mystery, could not have been better executed under Hetrick, Ormston, Lotay and Winslade’s pencils. The stark differences in their styles — with Lee Loughridge’s uncanny knack for setting the mood in areas like 2014’s sterile blue shades and 2050’s yellow haze — establishes the atmosphere immediately and effectively. For instance, Hetrick’s bold outlining and her softer pencils for the intricate details syncs perfectly with Shahara’s tougher-than-nails exterior and ponderous narrative voice while highlighting her section’s modernity by constantly slipping in cell phone usage by the background characters. On the other hand, Ormston’s dark, intensely shaded world looks as though it takes inspiration out of 19th century newspaper illustrations, which is more than apt for his section’s setting and subject matter. Likewise, Winslade uses rough inks for his murky take on World War II-era London, often casting the dubious lead in shadow in a way that reflects his inner duplicity. Lotay, though the weakest of the bunch with a far less detailed approach, does provide some nice figure work that charts her zany protagonist’s eccentric shifts in mood. Overall, each artist excels in their own sections, contributing to the tone with their individual strengths, and ultimately the book is better for it.
While the art aggressively sets these time periods apart through their contrasting styles, Spencer still manages to weave them together with plot points that get carried over from one scene to the next, like the setting, the murders that are carried out in the same exact way, and borrowed phrasing from the Order of Mithras in 1890 that appears in the dialogue of a character in 2050. This becomes even more fascinating as Spencer borrows from other genres to establish each setting, from 2014’s political thriller climate to 1890’s historical fiction base to 2050’s clear science fiction turn to 1940’s crime noir influences, which is an impressive and fascinating feat considering the short amount of space each time period was allotted. However, the book’s shared aspects throw these differences into sharp relief while blending them together in a subtle yet comprehensive manner. Again, Spencer’s trip to 2050 comes across as the issue’s weakest point. Since Spencer has a limited space with which to work due to the book’s structure, this section becomes frustrating rather than intriguing as he tries to build the world organically; that is, Spencer uses no exposition for this scene and, where there are certainly context clues, this scene doesn’t flow nearly as well as his other, stronger sequences.
Under Si Spencer and one hell of an art team, “Bodies” #1 marks a strong debut for these creators. They make the most out of the graphic medium with a vast array of style; between the writing and the artwork, “Bodies” is an elaborate dance through genre, space and time.