Surrogates #1

Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Brett Weldele
32 pages, color
Published by Top Shelf Productions

All right, I’ll admit it—when I first heard about Top Shelf Productions publishing The Surrogates I was a little skeptical. When I think of Top Shelf, after all, the first thing that leaps to mind isn’t a science-fiction action adventure mini-series. What I’d failed to take into account, though, is that Top Shelf’s publishing credos isn’t about genre so much as it’s about quality, and based on the first issue The Surrogates definitely fits the bill.

It’s 2054, and nine out of every ten people around the world now use surrogates—remote-controlled artificial bodies—to do everything. Work, fight, hang out, eat, even sex can all be performed through the usage of surrogates. In the Backbone District of Central Georgia Metropolis, Lieutenant Harv Greer and Sergeant Pete Ford are investigating what looks like a pair of surrogates that were struck by lightning, but their investigation is quickly leading them to an entirely different conclusion, one that bodes ill for the people of Central Georgia Metropolis.

Robert Venditti has two major goals in the first issue of The Surrogates, to introduce both the world 50 years from now as well as to get his story rolling. When it comes to the former, Venditti does a fantastic job; using the “show, don’t tell” school of writing, you really get a feel for what 2054 is all about. Little character interactions like Harv trying to have dinner with his wife outside of their surrogate bodies, or the pilot of the electrocuted surrogate finding his career in flames with the loss of the tool he used on a daily basis… those are fantastic. By the time the first issue is over, you have a strong grasp on what it’s like to live in 2054. As for the story itself, I couldn’t help but feel that it was only just starting to get rolling by the time the issue was over. There was just enough to make me want to read more, but I must admit that I wanted to see a bit more progression here. Still, what we did get was more that intriguing enough to make getting the second issue a must.

I’m so used to seeing Brett Weldele’s art in black and white that it was a real surprise to see what he’s capable of in a full color book. Weldele uses color as another brush in his art, creating richly textured pages that really help bring Venditti’s story come to life. It’s a look that seems almost painted, giving Weldele’s stylized characters some added texture and depth. From electricity crackling off of two surrogates’s bodies to the detectives talking together, everything seems more real, more alive, more natural. That’s not to say that Weldele’s linework in its own right isn’t good, because it is; he’s got a nice sense of how people move and body language, showing that just because you have a stylized form doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong understanding of how to make everything look natural. In a book that relies a great deal on scenes with people just talking to each other, Weldele really pulls it off.

The Surrogates #1 is a nice start to this mini-series; it’s got a terrific concept in a perfectly realized world, with just enough oomph to bring you back for more while not revealing everything in the first chapter. I take back any and every doubt I had before; The Surrogates is a great match for Top Shelf. Once you read it, I think you’ll agree.

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