My comrade-in-reviews, Chad Nevett, gave the debut issue a glowing four-star review, saying that Spencer’s writing is fearless, and I agree with him completely. Spencer has crafted a world here that distances itself from the obvious cliches that immediately pop to mind when the basic premise of this title is mentioned: “These six kids are in a prep school that isn’t quite what it seems.” Yeah, I rolled my eyes while typing that, but this comic is so much more, and quite unexpected.
The issue opens with Casey, one of our protagonists, spending some extra time with her cruel instructor, Miss Daramount. Casey’s punishment is more like a mob-style beatdown than a scolding, and it all centers around a question — a pop quiz — that Casey refuses to answer. Satisfied that her young charge is starting to break a little, Daramount sends Casey to detention, where Casey connects with five other students.
Once the scene shifts to detention, Spencer shares the secrets of how the half dozen students came to share this “Breakfast Club”-like moment. While cliche “Breakfast Club” comparisons appear to fit, they are quickly surpassed through the sinister machinations of Mr. Gribbs and Miss Daramount. The headmaster — the boss of Gribbs and Daramount — has identified these six students for a specific purpose, one that doesn’t even begin to crystallize within the pages of this issue. Spencer masterfully gives us just enough to want to know more, but then throws us more sensationalist events to distract from what’s really going on.
Eisma brings sharply detailed art with expressive characters to this story, but he could do more to differentiate the characters more distinctly. Spencer doesn’t call each character out by name, and there are spots where visual cues would help distinguish characters. Not to pile on, but Eisma’s storytelling could use some work, as Jun catches a desk to the head from what appears to be a sprinkler. I’m sure there is a more logical explanation, perhaps Jun was on the desk and it slipped, popping up like board would do if held just below the surface of the water. Eisma’s got the basic skills; he just needs to polish up the final product a bit more with stronger storytelling choices and more distinctive characters.
I didn’t know what to expect with this book. I’ve seen previews, I’ve read reviews, I’ve checked out the internet buzz that preceded the release of this title, but I withheld judgment. When I opened the book, the first scene quickly grabbed me by the back of the head and pulled me in. This book is off the beaten path, a little bit horror, a little action adventure, a little teen drama, a whole lot of riveting story. I knew nothing of these characters coming in, but I’m hooked, like the titular flower around a garden trellis.