Story: Joe Harris
Art: Sebastian Piriz
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
What They Say:
In 2011, the worst earthquake in Japan’s history breached the coastal Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing three of its four nuclear reactors to meltdown. Forced evacuations followed as the event released enough radioactive material into the air, ground, and water to force officials to set up an “Exclusion Zone”, effectively sealing off the land for what may well be the rest of human history.
But that’s only if you don’t have the right connections and the desire to experience catastrophe, failure, and misery as it really is! Enter DISASTER INC., an underground tourism outfit intent on helping people of means, secrets, and agendas explore the dark corners and off-map attractions typical tour groups won’t go to (and various laws don’t allow). Only Fukushima, known for its famed warrior class and their protection of the land and people dating back to ancient times, is full of deadly surprises and old ghosts.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
There are certain things that I’m always a bit wary of using in a story because of the meaning behind it. And even more so when you know a lot about what happened and it’s hard to separate from the reality. Chernobyl has long been one and even more now after the recent miniseries but for those who have been a big fan of anime and manga for the longest time, the events of Fukushima loom large still and the tales told from there about it make it hard to think otherwise. Joe Harris steps into this fertile but thorny ground with a story that has potential but a lot of holes in the ground that it could fall into as well. Sebastian Piriz puts together a great look for it with the character designs and distinctiveness of them but it also has a lighter look and feel that I expected considering the source material.
The bookends piece of the opening issue are what really sets the tone as we’re introduced to Eva and Hanno, two researchers that are in the Fukushima area doing sanctioned research about disfigured butterflies and the impact on the environment. While Hanno is ready to call it a day and to get back soon to Germany, especially as he watches the radiation meter closely, Eva knows she needs some real results from this and data to bring back and is pushing forward a bit more. But something else is going on here as, after days of no problems, the meter suddenly spikes as hundreds of butterflies suddenly rise. A headless body changes the situation but for Eva, it’s the fact of what awaits her in trying to escape that really showcases the greater dangers here.
The bulk of the issue, however, introduces us to Disaster Inc., a kind of shady company operated by a man named Paolo that’s basically extreme adventure no matter the cost. The kind of guy that can procure anything you need and get you to where you want to go. He’s now got a group that’s going to Fukushima and deep within the Exclusion Zone, not just the relatively safe edges of it or anything that some typical tourist might try and go see. Through his indebted employee Abby, we see how all of this works and the current group that’s come together with all their quirks and weirdness that will make for some revelations in the issues ahead when things invariably go bad. It’s not a bad opening issue but it’s doing the heavy lifting of introducing us to a lot of characters that are likely going to die, which lessens my interest in really wanting to get to know them.
I’m curious to see where Disaster Inc. goes from here because there are obvious paths and some interesting trappings to work with. But it also has to balance the whole “exotic for coolness sake” thing that happens to too many stories that take place in Japan from the view of Western eyes. Things are handled well here but for the most part, it hasn’t really dug into events yet, just teasing us with the edges of it all. Harris gives us a decent look at the cast of characters that are stepping into a new hell without realizing it and Piriz’s designs makes it easy to want to see more of what’s going to happen as they’re pretty nicely done. It’s an easy one to continue on with and see where it goes.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: AfterShock Comics (Kindle)
Release Date: May 20th, 2020