Temporary #1

Written by Damon Hurd
Art by Rick Smith
56 pages, black and white
Published by Origin Comics

“My co-workers are crazy,” is a pretty common phrase bandied about by people all over the world. It’s not surprising; in the stressful location of the workplace, you’re definitely going to see people at their worst, giving you a bad impression of them. Damon Hurd and Rick Smith took the familiar complaint and took it in an entirely different direction, though. In the world of Temporary, this is an office where complaint is more accurate than people would initially believe.

Envy Saint-Claire is a temporary employee. Working for All Trades Temporary Agency, she’s sent from one business to the next, helping fill the voids as her temporary employees see fit. When Envy goes to her newest one-day assignment, though, it’s not your ordinary office building. Everyone’s petrified of being transferred to the sixth floor, because no one wants to end up there. No, Envy’s on the fifth floor, where Tim has tried to jump off the window ledge twice now, and e-mails are transmitted via courier and post-it notes. This is very much not your average office building.

One of the things that grabbed me about Hurd’s script for Temporary #1 was how well he brings across the general wrongness of the situation that Envy quickly finds herself trapped in. With each page, Hurd tilts everything on its axis just a little more, piece by piece, until finally and without warning you’re plunged into the middle of the chaos. There’s a lot of really funny moments that show up without notice, like the fax machine or the inter-office e-mail, that quickly grab your attention… but it’s the more subtle and creepy things that really stuck with me. Office birthday parties used as a sedative, for example, or the glimpse we get into Bill’s personal file. And just when you think that everything’s returning to normal and you can relax, Hurd throws another curveball at you. It’s this level of unpredictability amidst a perfectly designed scenario that first attracts and then demands your attention in Temporary.

Hurd’s worked with a number of different cartoonists for his various comics, and I think he’s found another good match in the form of Smith. Smith’s art for Temporary is a perfect cross between realistic and cartoonish, and in many ways that’s a good way to describe the people of Temporary as well. From Envy’s blank, “I’m just a temp” expression to Bill’s jittery features, each character is designed perfectly; you can see what’s running through their heads, often getting a warning just before their thoughts explode into action with crazed results. Smith’s storytelling is good as well, using a three-tiered panel structure to easily move the action from one moment to the next. All in all, a very strongly designed book.

Temporary #1: Cubes and Ladders is a great kick off to this new series by Hurd and Smith. The only other time I’ve felt such unease about reading at an officeplace was Jeff Nicholson’s Through the Habitrails; while the two only share the same basic setting, both are able to conjure up a wonderful feeling of wrongness surrounding such an ordinary place that we’re all familiar with. The first issue stands alone as its own story, but there’s a wonderful coda that makes you know that while Envy’s adventures into each business may be an independent experience, there’s something greater going on that hopefully we’ll see more of before too long. While it’s not a “cliffhanger” in any traditional sense of the word, it’s enough of a tease that one desperately wants to see more. Temporary #1 is scheduled for a December 2004 release and is in the current Previews on page 323 in the Origin Comics listing, with Diamond Order Code OCT04? 2887. Make sure to order your copy with your local retailer as soon as possible… this is a series you don’t want to get pink-slipped.

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