Memorial #1

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Rich Ellis
32 pages, color
Published by IDW

I’ve enjoyed Chris Roberson’s writing on other people’s properties—finishing up the "Grounded" Superman arc, and writing the Fables spin-off miniseries Cinderella—but I think it’s his own co-creation iZombie that has impressed me the most. So when I heard that Roberson had a new creation with artist Rich Ellis in the pipeline involving a woman who lost her memories and a strange antique store? I knew I’d have to give it a whirl. And while these are early days, there’s enough in this first issue to have my interest officially piqued.

When Memorial #1 opens, Roberson doesn’t waste any time in getting down to business. In the first two pages we’ve met the memory-lacking Em, and by page three Roberson has moved on to introducing a new pocket reality called the Everlands, the villains that reside there, and (presumably) part of the reason why Em is missing her memories. Roberson clearly has a lot of back story and set-up to deliver, and that’s smart. By casting the various hooks out to the readers, he’s not assuming that everyone will have read interviews explaining what Memorial is about, but instead providing the big ideas as fast as humanly possible so that readers will encounter them and get intrigued.

Since Em herself is a bit of a blank slate, that’s a smart thing. Her personality will be, I suspect, the slow burn throughout this initial six-issue mini-series. Roberson has done an excellent job of slowly revealing facets of his characters over in iZombie, and I suspect we’ll get the same with Em and the (brilliantly named) cat called Schroedinger. Meanwhile, Roberson continues to pepper hints about the cosmos of Memorial, teasing us with lines about stolen moments getting turned into stories even as they’re grafted into the Everlands, or quietly setting up an invasion of statues by having them all appear in the backgrounds of scenes leading up to that moment. It’s a carefully, meticulously plotted first issue, and we’re all the much better for it.

Ellis appears to be a relative new-comer to the comics industry, but there’s a comfort in his art that makes him feel like he’s been around for a while. His people are drawn well; good anatomy and proportions, and he hits the expressions for key moments quite well. Our first look at Em’s face when she has no idea who she is, for instance, is one of bewildered shock, and her nervousness on the next page as she sits on the emergency room gurney is clear to the eye.

He’s also good with the settings of Memorial, though, and in some ways they’re the big stars of this first issue. The glimpse of the center of the Everlands is fun, with little islands and strange buildings dotting the river, a wonderful (and deliberate) mish-mash of styles and regions. Likewise, the Memorial store itself gets a great full-page spread when he first see its contents, a collection of knick-knacks and artifacts sitting side-by-side. Ellis needs to sell us on the idea that he contains anything and everything in a single glance, and I think he does so quite nicely.

Memorial is off to a good start; with five more issues in this initial mini-series it can, of course, go any direction from here. But it’s a promising opening, and the parts that I’d like to see fleshed out (namely the main characters) have room to do so. And after all, based on Roberson’s past comics work, that should be around the corner. For now, though, I feel like Roberson and Ellis have presented more than enough interesting material to bring readers back for a second issue. That’s exactly what a debut should do. Unlike the main character of Memorial, I’ll definitely remember to pick up the next installment.

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