Infinite Vacation #1

Story by Nick Spencer and Christian Ward
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Christian Ward
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Here’s what I’m finding myself liking more and more about Nick Spencer’s comics. He doesn’t just take a single idea and runs with it, but rather, takes that idea and pairs it with a second one that makes both somehow even better. So for example, Infinite Vacation starts with the germ of the idea that everyone always wonders what would have happened had they made a slightly different decision in life. It’s simple enough, one that’s spawned a lot of other stories. But add in the current obsession that people have with buying apps for their smartphones, and suddenly Infinite Vacation has shifted from another story about parallel universes and into something more interesting and current.

Spencer opens the book laying out the rules for hopping timelines, how it works, and what the costs are. (There’s even a brief sequence told through photographs that craft a commercial for the service, giving us the pitch.) Once that’s done, though, we start seeing much less exposition and more about the life of Matt, our slightly hapless protagonist. Spencer’s crafted him as our typical user of the Infinite Vacation app, letting us watch as he voyeuristically jumps from life to life, using it to solve even the most mundane of mistakes.

It’s a sharp introduction to both the concept and the character; after all, how many people do you know that pull out their iPhone or Droid to figure out something that a year or two earlier, they’d have managed just as fine without? Spencer doesn’t just take the concept and throw it into an app so that it feels current, he follows it through to its logical conclusion, understanding how people have become obsessed with their phone applications and are almost unable to function without them.

At the same time, there’s more to Infinite Vacation #1 than just world-building. Spencer gives us two different plot threads (that may or may not converge); one where Matt is finding more and more of his parallel universe counterparts dying gruesome deaths, and a second one where he meets the woman of his dreams who is a "deadender," a person who refuses to go on a "vacation" to fix a problem. Infinite Vacation mixes the different elements of mystery, romance, and comedy rather well, and at the end of the first issue there are enough hooks to theoretically grab anyone, without having to shift universes and cheat.

Christian Ward provides the art, which feels like a combination of graffiti and traditional comics. Ward uses a repeating pattern on some of his pages to help bring across the idea of the multiple universes unfolding, and we end up as a result with some of the most striking images throughout the comic. From the initial two-page spread telling us, "Welcome to the Infinite Vacation," to the repeating feet with toe tags upon discovering about the multiple dead Matts, it’s a clever way to present the information in a visual way.

There’s more to Ward’s art than just trickery, though. His art is deceptive in how at a glance it appears loose and dashed off, but with a closer glance you can see how rich and detailed every page is. From the rich painted backgrounds, to the echoes of ideas bouncing around Matt’s head, there’s almost something to stop and further examine. I like a lot of the little facial tics, too, like Matt’s creased grimace as he prepares to try and correct his mistake in letting a beautiful woman leave the café without talking to her, or his sheepish look when she starts yelling at him and walks off. All the while, the art shifts from carefully composed and tight to drawings that are meant to look like a squiggle; in some ways, Ward reminds me of the next generation of artists to follow the same path that people like Bill Sienkiewicz forged through in the 1980s.

Infinite Vacation #1 is a great debut issue, something I’ve rapidly come to expect from Spencer. There’s enough potential here to tell stories for year if Spencer and Ward want to, and I’m already intrigued enough to wonder what’s going to happen next. As tempting as the idea of hopping universes to find one where all of our mistakes are somehow erased, Spencer and Ward manage to make it feel not only enticing but dangerous. I’m in for more.

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