Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artists: Esad Ribic, Nic Klein
Image Comics, 2018
THE ART DREW MY EYE from the start. VS covers and alternate covers all share a fine eye for design, including the bold yet nearly invisible logo in outline, and precise, sleek illustration that looks in its city scenes like European albums with bald officials and drooping glamor. More, there is a mysterious depth in the color, shades on shades in plush scenes that make real life look airbrushed.
The scheme makes sense about halfway through Issue 1, when the reader realizes the too-plush rendering never was reality, just a screen image of war, played for viewers and prizes, and commercial breaks. The colorscape of this comic is the most engaging aspect. The inks are brilliant not because they stand out, but because they stand back one layer as if captured and swirling behind glass.
By Issue 3, the reader suspects everything is on screen and no reality exists without the viewer. There is no hero with the name VS, and no certainty that VS abbreviates “versus” or is rather an acronym for the video screen reality that dominates this future world.
Co-created by writer Ivan Brandon and artist Esad Ribic, the VS story starts in shadows. The color art by Nic Klein sets the mood for a world soaked in ink and few words. The first full human form is observed as through a telescope, a female sheathed in a trim spacesuit with a Greek helmet and a ray gun. Purposely kooky. There is no sense who is the hero, only who gets attention at the moment.
Action emerges from the shadows—or is it action? Maybe choreography? Nothing is certain. Yet despite the confusion and no clear allegiance, by the end of Issue 1 I was glued to the page, holding my breath.
The hook is in the sparse writing. A clue is dropped in Issue 3 by an imperious leader named One, who remarks disappointedly, “I’m not exactly sure how you managed … all of those words.”
The story advances in blurbs and blips and bullet points, with no omniscient author to explain and converse with the reader as in days past when people read. Consequently, the plot is not easily summarized even after three issues. No matter. Like a video game where avatars compete, VS is recorded live in the moment and made to watch.