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Subgenre #1 Review

4 min read
The story concept has a lot going for it even with how familiar it is because the execution is good and some amount of self-awareness as well

Reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Creative Staff:
Story: Matt Kindt
Art: Wilfredo Torres
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letterer: Jim Campbell

What They Say:
A man is living two lives. He is a private detective in a dystopian cyberpunk future trying to solve a triple murder. But when he falls asleep–he wakes up as a wandering adventurer in a barbaric fantasy world where magic exists. Is he two separate people? Or is he a third person that has undergone a psychotic split? He jumps back and forth from sword-wielding barbarian to jaded private eye trying to solve the brutal crime. But the bigger question is, can he merge these realities without losing himself?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’ve certainly loved a lot of Matt Kindt’s books over the years but he’s definitely a creator that because of how prolific they are that I get pretty choosey about their projects and how many I read at a time. With a gap for a while now, getting into a new series like this is ideal and it plays to some favorite concepts of mine. The book does a lot of the necessary heavy lifting to get the concept and ideas underway and to give us a pair of interesting characters to latch onto that are familiar but also establishing themselves well. The book also delivers vey well in the artwork department as Wilfredo Torres is definitely a strong talent and ideally suited for this kind of work. We get a lot of the near-future hard-boiled detective stuff but it’s also much more than that which lets Torres flex their creative strengths well, especially under the color design from Bill Crabtree.

The premise is pretty simple in that we’re introduced to a modern world where one company, Decipher Cosmics, produces or controls the vast majority of IP produced in the world. They have a stranglehold on it and they’ve now called in a private detective that’s worked for them in the past before for a job. Verge is, as he says, a textbook private dick except for the womanizing and alcoholism and we get the added bonus of how he has a virtual assistant that runs some slightly off-the-books software to do his job. Verge being called in comes just as he has an assailant at his office as well and they’re all connected as it’s a secret cult-like group known as IP Agents who collect rare one-of-a-kind books and such in order to protect and secure them, ostensibly. Decipher Cosmics wants Verge’s help in tracking who is behind this as several of those members infiltrated the company and were killed on the premises.

The first person he ends up tracking down on this job is Ronnie Lake, who turns out to be a woman to his surprise and is very old-school and an aficionado of print books and the like. She even keeps a light touch when it comes to the virtual assistants. There’s chemistry there to be sure and it’s fun to watch the banter as they end up leaning into working together as she knows where the IP Agents tend to operate out of. It’s a lot of things falling into place easily and there’s a lot of good dialogue in how it all unfolds. The action is solid as well as it comes as new things are discovered and each piece adds to it well – right up until the twist that leaves you wanting to know what’s truly real and what kind of larger machinations may be at work here. You can see a kind of mixed Matrix kind of story starting here but until we know for sure what reality is truly real in the story, it’s going to be fun to try and figure it all out.

In Summary:
There’s a lot to like with this opening installment as the initial setting is interesting and not overdone, the characters are solid with plenty of room to go, and the overall design and aesthetic draws you in without being over-the-top. The story concept has a lot going for it even with how familiar it is because the execution is good and some amount of self-awareness as well so that it knows and admits some of what’s going on is basically cliche. But that just opens it up to tweak things and explore some new areas and we get that with the twist toward the end that leaves things uncertain. Definitely a lot of fun and a solidly engaging read with great visuals. I’m excited to see what this team has put together in what’s to come.

Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 18th, 2023
MSRP: $3.99

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