Originally announced as a title from Vertigo in 2013, Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez's "The Discipline" #1 arrived this week from Image Comics with a new lease on life. While there's a lot of promise in this first chapter, this story of a protagonist's slow awakening to a new hidden world feels very by-the-books.
When "The Discipline" #1 kicks off, our protagonist Melissa is doing well financially, but that's about the only positive in her life. Her husband ignores her, her family rejects her attempts to help and her life is generally unfulfilling. Then she meets Orlando in an art gallery, and her world turns upside down as she starts to learn about a shadowy organization known only as the Discipline. While Melissa thinks she knows what's going on, some strange twists and turns still lie ahead.
"The Discipline" #1 opens with a three-page sequence set a bit later in this initial story arc's timeline, which Milligan uses to show us that this isn't a completely standard story about getting a new spark in one's life. It's good to keep those opening pages in the back of your mind, because the strange alien creatures our characters eventually transform into are the big flag that this is something distinctly different. Otherwise, "The Discipline" #1 could easily be mistaken for another exploration of sexual awakening, even though Orlando very firmly states that, "This has nothing to do with sex. Or rather, the sex, the seduction... They're just the means to an end."
However, because that seduction is so front-and-center, it's hard to shake that impression for a lot of the issue. It doesn't help that Melissa's life feels like a cliche for that sort of story, too, with the neglecting (and so far unseen) husband, the family who pushes her away and the single supportive friend. Aside from those strange alien forms, this isn't serving up anything new or different just yet.
As always, Fernandez's art is a good reason to buy this comic. Melissa is incredibly expressive here, drawn in a lean manner that almost looks stretched out on the page. The artwork is at its best when dealing with the off-beat moments, though, like the meat hook sequence in the slaughterhouse. The two different forms hanging on the hook mirror each other well in basic pose and size without coming across as too similar, and the panel where Melissa reacts to the sudden shift (before we see what she's now viewing) is good because it shows surprise without exaggerated her fear and helps define her as a character. New York itself also comes to life under Fernandez's pencil, be it running through a park or along the water's edge. There's no mistaking "The Discipline" #1 for being set anywhere else.
"The Discipline" #1 is off to a slightly average and predictable start, and that's a little frustrating, as Milligan is not only known for his off-beat and interesting ideas, but his work with Fernandez on "The Names" too. With any luck, future issues will play up on the elements hinted in this first issue, which will make "The Discipline" different from other types of stories. For now, however, those bits are too small to really stand out.