Collapser #1 might be the best debut issue of a series starring an insufferable protagonist. OK, that's perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but it’s not terribly far from the truth. The newest addition to the DC's Young Animal imprint, curated by Gerard Way,has one big problem holding it back from reaching the expected quality of other titles on the roster: the internal dialogue -- “the voice in Liam’s head,” as it's referred to in press materials -- is awful. It's crass, juvenile and repetitive, and conflicts with what’s occurring on the page, betraying the visual component of our hero’s actions. What’s worse is it takes up most of any panel it floats across like a cloud of diesel exhaust blasted through a family picnic. It almost ruins this comic.
Now, with that said, it’s pretty obvious from the not-so-subtle visual cues, and Young Animal’s knack for giving comics with weird premises and even weirder characters a platform to stand on, the annoying purple narration is here for a reason -- one that will hopefully pay off. But we’re not here to talk about how things could develop. We’re here to discuss the comic at hand, and in a vacuum, Collapser #1 is almost a wash. The art by Ilias Kyriazis is simply gorgeous, and when Liam’s demon/alien on his shoulder isn’t clouding conversations, the dialogue and plotting are solid.
Collapser tells the story of a young amateur DJ named Liam, who by day works with elderly patients in a criminally understaffed nursing home. His interactions with the people he takes care of is earnest, kind, and has a sense of melancholy (as would be expected). And as interesting as a slice-of-life comic about a struggling DJ who finds inspiration from the retirement-home residents to better his abilities would be, this is not that book. The selling point is the box delivered to Liam’s apartment by a mysterious (and alien) delivery person. How its contents will change Liam’s life and career has yet to be explored.
The script by Mikey Way and Shaun Simon nails all the plot beats to make us understand how tough our hero has it without throwing him a full-on pity party. Liam would actually be quite likable if it weren’t for the narration from the voice in his head. Surely it seems redundant to mention it again, but it's that off-putting. It raises the question of whether Collapser would benefit from its absence and the answer, based solely on this first issue, is probably “yes.”
The supporting cast is instantly charming. The glimpses of the bizarre interstellar narrative are also great, and beg to be explored further. And from a visual standpoint Collapser #1 is rather beautiful. Kyriazis’ panels move the story along at a nice clip and have a surreal vibe that ebbs and flows through the issue. There are panels that feel ripped right from a page of a romantic-comedy manga dropped in the middle of mundane moments from American indie comics. This sort of dissonance works like gangbusters and gives Collapser #1 a sense of heightened reality. Cris Peter’s colors elevate that; Liam is coded in warm tones, while portions of his surrounding are cold, conveying a sense of isolation.
DC’s Young Animal’s latest release, Collapser #1 is a beautifully realized mixed bag of science fiction tropes that will probably be repackaged as potential superhero tropes in future issues. There’s enough here to pique readers’ interest, but too much predication on other comics may not be enough to sustain that interest.