ADVANCE REVIEW! Spontaneous #3 will come out on August 24, 2011.
Joe Harris has hinted throughout Spontaneous (and in our interview with him) that the story of our protagonist Melvin is less about spontaneous combustion than it is about his need to escape his potential. Issue three is perhaps the most direct depiction of this aspect of the story, as Melvin and the “fiery god” that within him are at odds throughout the issue, as ol’ MFG pushes Melvin to reveal his past to those close to him.
But Melvin’s not the only one with a dark passenger in this story. As Issue 3 opens, we’re introduced to a Mr. Grumm, who is occupying an especially warm corner of the Tranquil Tomorrows elderly care facility, or “Center for the Aging,” to use its parlance. As vulnerable as Mr. Grumm appears to be when a social worker comes calling, he still cuts a menacing presence, bald and stoic, eyes hidden behind thick glasses. When a bird throws itself through the window Grumm is seated in front of and scares off the social worker, it’s seemingly a hint that Grumm’s ties to the story go beyond his connection to the company most of the victims worked at and he may have a “fiery god” of his own.
The rest of the issue expands on the investigative work Emily and Melvin have been doing, as well as the wedge that partnership is driving between Melvin and his other partner Kenny. The people around Melvin all have dark passengers of their own, from Emily’s impulsive curiosity to Kenny’s more immediately threatening jealousy, and as the story develops it seems clear that these will become just as dangerous as what Melvin is carrying.
Harris and Brett Weldele are smart to utilize the less is more aspect of their Hitchcock influence, keeping the knowledge the reader has to a minimum and often cutting away from scenes before anything is obviously revealed. Whoever was interfering with Emily’s research last issue remains unknown here and the only bone Harris and Weldele throw us comes from a close-up of a tag on a bouquet of flowers at a funeral, indicating that Grumm is still involved with the employees he burned, in more ways than one.
Much of this story’s appeal comes from that piecemeal method of reveal that Harris and Weldele favor, with Weldele’s sharp visual sense enabling that method to be exciting rather than frustrating. Weldele’s art guides the eye towards the important information without being blunt about it but his scratchy expressionist style also makes it impossible to pick up on everything on the first glance, and I mean that in the best possible way.
If you aren’t reading Spontaneous yet, then you’re only inflicting a great disservice on yourself. In a year crowded with great mystery horror thrillers, Spontaneous stands out as truly artful and inventive, as playful as Brick and as stylishly imagined as an especially focused Gregg Araki work, and it’s all the better in single issue form, where the urge to learn what’s next is almost unbearable.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.