I know there’s a lot of craziness going on in the comic book world right now, and as a result it’s easy to miss books like Spontaneous. But if our previous reviews of this title haven’t gotten you to go out and give Spontaneous a chance in place of whatever New 52 title you’re dropping, perhaps this one will. Because this fourth issue of Spontaneous is the perfect antidote to the stale writing and poor presentation that has plagued quite a bit of those new titles.
Joe Harris and Brett Weldele’s work on this series has been excellent throughout, but issue four is where the full ambition and scope of the book comes into play. Beginning with a flashback that gives readers just enough information to go insane with speculation before the end, this is the kind of tense, well thought-out plotting that needs to be seen more in the medium. With our protagonist Melvin sitting in jail due to his connection to all the mysterious deaths happening around him, our intrepid reporter Emily has to go out and find some evidence to exonerate Melvin.
Emily has in some ways been played for laughs in Spontaneous, as her passion for investigative journalism has bordered on the psychotic. Emily’s got real skills, though, as has been shown from issue two onwards and in this issue that’s the side of her that’s showcased, this monologue aside:
Emily’s showdown with local, seemingly vegetative business tycoon and series antagonist Mr. Grumm is what drives this issue, offering an opportunity for more details to be shown about the true threat Mr. Grumm poses. It also works as a juxtaposition with Melvin’s own conflict with his former partner Kenny, which is presented in a more aggressive and explosive manner than the icy battle of wills that happens between Emily and Grumm.
This is an uncharacteristically dialogue heavy issue of Spontaneous but it never feels boring or played out, instead offering some definite answers to questions that have been teased for some time. Weldele is also held back for most of the issue, his penciling forced to focus on the mundane, while the characters are especially stoic this time around. But all that serves to enable the issue’s two climactic scenes to stand out all the more; it’s a slow burn, sure, but when it reaches its apex it’s full on supernova.
But what really makes this issue and the series on the whole such a great read is the expert characterization. When we get to that final reveal in the issue, split between images showing Emily and Melvin learning the truth at the same time, it’s heartbreaking and clever, indicating that the end of this series will be devastating for all involved regardless of what happens. Harris has spent four issues drawing out your sympathies and expectations and it makes the twist all the more shocking, not because it couldn’t have been discerned if you were looking in the right places, but because we can actually feel what the characters themselves are going through. If you want to support this medium by forcing it to grow up, then maybe you should drop some of those high processed food stuffs books others are offering and buy this one instead.
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.