Here's another comic I received in the mail. Mmmm ... comics in the mail!
Gordon Harris, the creator of Pedestrian, was nice enough to send me a copy of it so I could review it. It's a slim volume, clocking in at 54 pages, and it costs $10.95. But wouldn't you rather spend your hard-earned cash on something that's a labor of love rather than the latest soulless corporate product?
Sure you would! But should it be this labor of love? Ah, there's the rub.
Harris describes his book as a "post-apocalyptic graphic novel WITHOUT zombies or vampires," which is nice. I keep thinking the zombie trend or the vampire trend has run its course, but they never do! At the very least, we can get other stories about the end of the world without those creatures, and that's exactly what Harris gives us.
The book begins with Ray, the "pedestrian" of the title, who dresses like a bellhop (presumably that was his job, but why he never changed his clothes is never explained) and is wandering around a city that appears completely deserted. He gives us some unusual information - apples and dogs have gone extinct - but Harris spends most of this time giving us a sense of Ray's complete isolation and his state of mind, which is remarkably non-insane for someone who's been alone for so long. Then he discovers a package in the street, and he decides to deliver it. Why not, right? As he strolls along, he follows a pigeon, who turns out to be hanging out in a tree in which a tree house sits. Ray investigates and meets Tamaya, who lives there. They look in the package and find a letter and a DVD that explain some of what happened to the world and how it became "post-apocalyptic." It's not a bad explanation, but Harris wisely doesn't spend too much time on it. As I've mentioned before, when you're dealing with a sudden collapse of civilization, it's best not to go into details too much, because civilizations tend to collapse really slowly, which doesn't make for good fiction.
They also discover that the pigeons are carrier pigeons (which is a useful mode of communication in this kind of world), and they follow a map attached to its leg to the owner, a dude living in his very own restricted area. The dude doesn't get a name yet, but he invites them in because he's swell. Then the book takes a very, very weird turn, and I really hope Harris is planning a sequel, because there's no way he can pull a plot twist like the one he pulled without following up on it. Seriously, it's weird. And it comes out of nowhere, which makes it even more important that Harris continues the story!
Harris does a pretty good job with the set-up of the book, and he never allows sensationalism to overwhelm the story, which is nice. Until the last few pages, this is just a story of regular folk who happen to live in a world where, it seems, most people are dead (or gone somehow). Early on, when Ray is alone, he does a nice job revealing his character through short, punchy caption boxes, although Ray does seem to know more trivia than is possible (especially about the Brooklyn Bridge). Harris does give us one, almost all-prose page, which breaks up the flow of the visual narrative but which still works. When he meets Tamaya, the book goes a bit sideways - not altogether in a bad way - because Tamaya is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, so they talk a lot about some kooky stuff. Whether it's true or not is beside the point - we have no way of knowing if this is what happened in Ray and Tamaya's world, but it just sounds wacky.
Harris then gets to the meat of the plot, as Ray and Tamaya go on the road, so there's fewer opportunities to dig into their characters, but he does a decent job laying the groundwork.
The artwork is a bit rough but not bad throughout. Harris designs his characters well, and the book has a pretty good sense of place - we don't really know where it's occurring (I guess the first part is in New York, but the rest is in an amorphous rural setting), but he still does a good job with backgrounds and other objects in the scene to show where his characters are. The characters' movement is a bit awkward, but that's one of the hardest things for an artist to do, so I'm not holding it against Harris too much. His layouts are a bit crowded, and I think the book would have read more clearly if he had figured out a way to tell it with fewer panels, but that's a minor complaint - in general, his storytelling works well enough. In a nice departure from most post-apocalyptic stories, the coloring is bright and charming - the world looks a lot better off without so many humans.
I would Mildly Recommend Pedestrian - it's obviously the first in a series, which means Harris doesn't tell a complete story, and that kind of bugs me (not because I won't pick up subsequent issues, but I always wonder if the creator will manage to finish it), and despite high production values, it's still a pretty raw effort. But it has a lot of potential, and Harris will get better at the things that don't work the most - the artwork mainly, but also the more expository parts of the story, which are now out of the way. I'm curious to see how Harris fits the big twist into his wider story, and I hope he continues with this comic. And I'd like to thank him for sending it my way. That's always cool of creators!