Snapshot #1

Story by
Art by
Letters by
Clem Robins
Cover by
Image Comics

As a creative team, Andy Diggle and Jock are best known for their work on "The Losers," an acclaimed techno-thriller series from Vertigo that ran from 2003-2006. "Snapshot" #1 is a return to the same genre, and it's enjoyable to see how Diggle and Jock have evolved and matured as storytellers.

Jock's work in "Snapshot" #1 is more fluid and graceful than his work on "The Losers," and his faces and figures feel more three-dimensional. Like "The Losers," "Snapshot" #1 has a feeling of tremendous urgency and the atmosphere of the story is similar, with explosive feelings and movement mixed in with violence and camaraderie. Diggle's gifts for suspense and humor are still apparent, and his work, too, feels more relaxed and effortless, in the way that a more experienced athlete shows less strain.

His dialogue is natural-sounding and appealing, and Diggle also strikes a good balance in "Snapshot" #1, giving readers enough time with the characters so that they feel like real people, but not so much time that the action suffers. After seven pages of comfortable world-building and character development, Diggle drops a narrative bomb. Both the speed of complications and the bizarre quality of the events themselves snowball, until both the protagonist and the reader are stunned and breathless.

It's difficult to say more about Diggle's scripting, since much of the success of this kind of crime/suspense story depends on future revelations. The plot itself is a classic "innocent bystander gets entangled into a labyrinthine crime mystery," although the specific details and Diggle's casual tone raise "Snapshot" #1 above the ordinary. However, it's Jock's art that further distinguishes "Snapshot" #1 and makes it a must-read. His work is exceptionally skillful in technique and surpassingly beautiful in effect.

Jock's style gravitates towards realism with his excellent draftsmanship, but approach and his line are distinctive. His composition is unusual at times but it always works. On one page, Jock arranges the phone pictures that begin Jake's ordeal attractively and dramatically, stacking them vertically, so that each "panel" is the outline of the phone.

The direction of light and shadow inform how Jock renders objects. On a bike tire in bright sunshine, the circumference of the tire bleeds into white where the light strikes the tread. He doesn't hesitate to shroud faces in dark shadows if it works for the story and that's how the sun happens to be shining.

Little details, like a straight smudge of ink defining the barrel of a gun, make the world of "Snapshot" richer. Usually, pencillers and even sometimes inkers rely on colorists to add depth, or they keep outlines as straight and clean as possible. Jock varies his lines from bold and heavy outlines to needle-thin filaments, and he uses a variety of shading techniques, including zip-a-tone.

Despite this variety of mark-marking tools, Jock's work also feels unusually sharp and clean, especially in interior spaces. Reading "Snaphot" #1, the world that Jock draws has the paradoxical feeling of being both detailed and minimalistic at once. He is selective -- choosing to focus the reader's attention in certain places with densely rendered patches of texture and depth and in other places, using only a few lines to suggest space and presence. The reader gets a sense that every line was precisely placed and serves a purpose, just like how in good prose, every word counts.

"Snapshot" #1 is worth picking up just for Jock's art. Only further issues will tell if Diggle's script sustains the narrative excitement, or if the magic will die when the curtain is pulled back. As a debut, though, "Snapshot" #1 begins a thriller that make the reader want to come back for more, even if it's just to get an explanation for a last-page cliffhanger that will puzzle as much as it shocks.

SDCC: Marvel's Next Big Thing, With Jonathan Hickman, C.B. Cebulski

More in Comics