ADVANCE REVIEW! Forgotten 22 #1 is in this month’s Diamond Previews and is available for pre-order. The order number is MAR111247.
It would be only fair for me to begin by giving a bit of full disclosure before I begin my review. I have never met Matthew McLean, but I do know a lot about him. He’s a filthy, granola-eating Denver hippie. Politically, we don’t see eye to eye, but he’s never really expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with. We’ve also worked together on this site for a long time and I consider him a friend. He gave me a shot at an advance review only because he knew I would tell him if I thought it was a piece of crap. So of course I went into it with a certain amount of pressure to rip it to shreds just for the sanctity of our friendship.
Fact is, though, it’s one of the most well conceived stories I’ve read in a long time. It pisses me off to tell him that, too.
Dakota walks into a ghost town and sees one solitary person sitting in the bar waiting for him. Apparently, Dakota is no longer among the living, and he didn’t end up where the good guys end up. The man he meets doesn’t necessarily identify himself as the dude with horns and a pitchfork, but frankly it doesn’t matter in this sense.
This brings me to the actual execution of this great idea. There aren’t a lot of details given by the writer, probably because he was too busy working on his snowboard skills. Regardless, I liked how we, as readers, are allowed to come to our own conclusions as to the details. I think, as a long-time reader of comics, that fact is lost on me a lot because we all know the backstory of every character we normally read. As a result, I think many independent writers tend to fill in too many details right away because it’s what we are used to. Plus, they’re afraid of losing their readers right away.
McLean’s style appeals to someone like me because I enjoy writing with reckless abandon. It’s almost as if he’s said to himself, “Readers will figure things out on their own, I don’t have to hold their hands while they read.” It’s a sign of respect I think a lot of good writers show to their readers.
Dakota is given a chance to pass the time through eternity by helping Hell retrieve some of the inmates that escape. He’s put to work right away, and the results aren’t quite what I was expecting either.
That’s another crucial mistake writers make. In stories where the hero isn’t necessarily a good guy, many try to pull off the cliché of “he’s a bad guy with a heart of gold.” Dakota’s in Hell for a reason; let’s not have him petting puppies all of the sudden. Our anti-hero is all about finishing the job at hand, not caring about style points. His first mission accomplishes just that.
Stefano Cardosell seems well matched with this script. Seemingly influenced by the Mignola school of art, his rough style compliments McLean’s attitude to this book. Sure, a more detail-oriented artist could have done up some interesting splash pages, but it wouldn’t have felt right. Speaking of those, we didn’t see any in the first issue. It tells me there was a lot to this script, and a lot of story to tell. It’s also another nod to readers, because full-page panels tend to eat up space that should be reserved for story. Cardosell does a fine job of panel layout, doing a good job of keeping my eyes moving without getting confused. In the end, the art is going to be a taste issue with readers. However, the more reads I gave this issue, the more I felt like the art made the story better.
The interesting part of this series will be how things play out from here. Surely we will find out more about the man Dakota was when he was alive, maybe even with a cameo from people who used to know him. We will also learn about the man he wants to be from here on out as well. There was just something about the ghost town he is apparently residing in, it just didn’t seem quite right. Finally, this issue begs the question: is anyone ever truly beyond redemption?
I’m not giving it a perfect score because I don’t want the hippie getting a big head. It’s that darn close to perfect though. This is a definite buy for me when it reaches stores, though. Instead of just supporting my friend, however, I’m going to buy it because it’s a damn good story that actually leaves me wanting more.