By Joshua Luna
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics
Joshua Luna and Jonathan Luna are best known in the comics industry, collectively, as the Luna Brothers. They’ve had three hit series from Image Comics—Ultra, Girls, and The Sword—and I think everyone assumed that their next project would also be together. With Whispers, though, Joshua Luna is not only writing but drawing this new series. And if this is what happens when one of the brothers works on a solo project? Well, nothing against their successful partnership, but I’d like to see some more solo comics from time to time.
In Whispers, Luna isn’t taking an easy route with its protagonist. Sam suffers from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, terrified of touching a door handle because the germs on it might somehow kill him, and going through his rituals over and over again just to be certain. He’s also got an ex-girlfriend, Lil, with whom he’s trying to stay friends even as he coldly barges past her issues of her parents being in a horrible car accident (one dead, the other hospitalized) to blurt out the strange dreams he’s been having. This is not a character for whom most readers are going to find an instant affection for.
That said, it’s hard to keep from finding yourself intrigued. Maybe it’s because you start to learn that Sam’s "dreams" where he’s jumping from one friend to the next aren’t dreams at all, starting with a biting comeback to the bullying from Blake that quickly settles on if all of this is in Sam’s head or not. But for whatever reason, in spite of the slightly-prickly protagonist, Whispers pulls the reader in and holds onto their attention firmly.
Once Whispers starts looking inside the thoughts of the bystanders that Sam visits, we get the book’s strength and weakness at the same time. The idea of Sam being able to get some thoughts but not all while going through his astral projection (or whatever it is) holds a lot of possibility, and watching Sam try and steer them into the right direction is good. But for whatever reason, some of the lines in the internal monologues of those that Sam visits feel a little stilted, not quite the way that most people would actually think. It could be that these aren’t literal words running through their heads—only time will tell—but right now it’s the one rough patch on the script.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Joshua Luna draw before, and while his art style is similar in many ways to his brother Jonathan Luna, there are differences. Both of the Luna Brothers go for a clean, open art style. With Whispers #1, though, I found myself a little surprised to see some more fine details in the art. Joshua Luna definitely goes for more texture in the hair, or some lines around the nose and mouth. It’s a nice, instant visual difference that sets him apart from his brother, each carving out their own end of a style’s range.
I do like how Luna lays out pages; it feels very cinematic, with tight focuses on a character that can then pull back to give the greater scene unfolding. It works well, flowing from one panel to the next and always having Luna in full control of how the art will affect your emotional responses. Occasionally a character’s expression comes across a bit odd, almost dead in some ways, but when Luna hits the mark it brings that person’s emotional response to life. (Clearly none of Luna’s characters should ever become professional poker players.) It’s also nice to see Luna tackle a lot of scenes from the Washington DC area so well; something as simple as the right types of buildings in the city, or drawing one of the many traffic circles that fill its streets is a pleasure. DC has its own distinct look, and it’s something that few comic artists get correctly.
Whispers #1 is a good start to a new series from Luna; I’m definitely curious about where it’s going from here, and I have to give Luna full credit in that this is a book whose main character should by all rights alienate the reader. Instead I’m finding myself drawn in despite those deliberate character flaws. I’ll definitely be back for a second issue.