EDITOR's NOTE: Nola #1 will be available in stores on November 18th.
Plot: It's post-Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans is a flooded wasteland. Nola Thomas is a be-masked revenger out to get back at The Man for taking her life away. Her first target? Bacon.
Comments: Did it really take us this long to see a comic book set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Surely I've forgotten about something in the past three years, right? Surely Vertigo did one. Anyway, if you're looking for a deep look at post-Katrina life and a study of human nature amid catastrophe, this might not be the comic you want. From issue #1, it seems like Nola is going to be a potboiler revenge story and a pretty good one at that.
Pierluigi Cothran scripts two parallel narratives in Nola #1. In the first, Nola faces off with a police barricade blocking her path. In the other, we find out what Nola's life was like before she became the gun-toting antihero we're going to root for. Juxtaposing these two running narratives are the book's greatest achievement, feeling like two entirely different worlds. Too often do first issues feel like setup that requires reading #2 to decide whether the book's worth reading, so running an origin story with the actual story simultaneously is a wise decision.
Because the script requires the latter day scenes in post-Katrina New Orleans (or "Nawlins," if you're so inclined) to climax simultaneously with the flashback origin story, the post-Katrina narrative feels way too decompressed. Thus, the script takes too long to reach its only logical conclusion in what amounts to a single scene. Conversely, the flashback is so packed with characters and information that a pivotal change in mood feels abrupt and preposterous.
For the most part Cothran impresses with his characterization and dialogue, introducing us to distinct, memorable supporting characters like the old man who repeats his stale jokes or the taxi driver who evaded a robbery by taking a bullet. These details do the most work in painting the pre-Katrina world as a quaint place that we'll hate to lose once the disaster happens.
The past and present scenes are connected by coincidental bits of dialogue from following scenes in that oh-so-clever Watchmen style: a panel with car facing a road under construction is accompanied by a caption that reads "The road is closed," at which point we cut to Nola facing a police barricade. It doesn’t try too hard to be cute most of the time, so it tends to works. I'm afraid in future issues the device will wear thin.
Consistently great, however, is Damian Couceiro's art, which contains a surprising amount of detail in unexpected places like the intricate designs on chairs at an outdoor restaurant or veins on a character's wrist. Couceiro is also incredibly adept at facial expressions, like Nola's mother's disapproving glance or the embarrassment of the old jokester's daughter. His New Orleans looks a touch more post-apocalyptic than it does any sort of realistic horror, which screams "misstep" but that may be more of a problem with the script than the art.
Nola is total pulp and I mean that in the best way. It's a modern-day blaxploitation comic without the pastiche but complete with evil white men who deserve a good killing. Let's just hope that Nola is as mean as it promises.
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