With Spontaneous Joe Harris and Brett Weldele have quietly put together one of the most fresh and exciting stories in comics this year, a combination of teen noir and Cronenberg-like horror and so it’s a little sad to see it coming to an end after five issues. Not sad because the story ends on a weak note but because this is one of the rare series where you feel the creators could stretch it for quite some time and likely even turn it into a true masterpiece before too long. The series’ penultimate issue perhaps best exemplified that notion, as it raised the narrative stakes and offered some real emotional payoffs. And now with the finale that feeling becomes even more intense, as the ending suggests something more might be out there for Melvin.
The final issue of Spontaneous may be a slight step down from the fabulous highs of issue four, but that’s not because it lacks in answers or cohesion. After Melvin found out his true nature in the last issue, learning that he is the catalyst for the spontaneous combustions he’s been trying to stop and triggering Kenny’s death as a result, the countdown for his inevitable clash with Grumm started in full. Half structured as a presentation of Emily’s article on the story and as a tense showdown between two explosive forces, Spontaneous’ finale should give readers pretty much everything they could want from an ending.
Weldele’s art is stellar as always, and here he gets far more room to play with abstraction than ever before, particularly in regards to Melvin reaching his potential. There are some issues with weak lettering, as the overly digitized typing clashes wildly with Weldele’s loose, scratchy penciling, with the worst of it happening right at the start:
Emily’s text works perfectly though, with the typing inserted over the panels functioning as a nice juxtaposition to Weldele’s style. And in any event, the occasionally weak lettering is just a small detail that sticks out but doesn’t ultimately detract from the work as a whole too much.
Harris and Weldele appropriately really click in this issue, with Harris giving Weldele plenty of nearly wordless sections to show off the potency of his imagery. Weldele’s art is its own kind of fire, an uncontrollable force that often ignores traditional rules of storytelling and perspective in favor of loose lines and a focus on stark color contrast. As the story escalates and Melvin is forced to out maneuver the authorities, Weldele seamlessly moves between color palettes and styles to best portray his shifting thoughts and memories.
But it’s in the showdown between Grumm and Melvin at the nursing home that the issue fully gains momentum. Weldele is able to craft some freakishly creepy images that are stunningly simple when you examine them, from the nursing home staff that Grumm executes to the displays of power by both Melvin and Grumm. It’s a fully cinematic climax that delivers on the action and the concept.
Some elements of the issue don’t work, like the overly sentimental story Emily puts together summarizing the entire debacle and the somewhat goofy final page. The issues also lacks much of the emotional payoff that the previous issue had, as there’s never another moment that’s quite as powerful from a character perspective as Kenny’s fate. Even so, this is a strong ending that admirably caps off what has been a tremendously exciting series and beyond that it leaves room for Harris and Weldele to come back and expand on the story. That readers are left wanting more should also tell you how great a job Harris and Weldele did throughout and with both their stars rising, we’ll surely only see better and better work from them.
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.