By Jarred A. Luján — Pandemica #1 is a new mini-series from IDW Publishing written by New York Times’ bestselling author Jonathan Maberry with line art by Star Wars: The Old Republic alumni Alex Sanchez. It’s also a timely book about designer pathogens used to commit ethnic cleansing across the globe. Which is, to be blunt about this, a pretty horrifying plot. The phrase “designer pathogens” alone gives me a sense of dread, and Maberry has made it quite clear that he wants the book to be grounded in reality, going so far as to mention that he has been conducting research with epidemiologists and molecular biologists to make the book more realistic.
With that ambition, Maberry has proven quite successful. Pandemica is horrifying to start with because it feels very realistic and reflective of the times we live in. That could easily be a depressing statement given our current state of affairs, but with a comic like this, it’s a big compliment to the book. It’s clever, it’s dark, and it carries an authentic feel throughout. I think that’s where most of Pandemica’s strength lies in this first issue: its accurate capture of the dread in today’s society, while at the same time maintaining a lingering sense of hope within it.
I’m also a really big fan of the hook at the end of the book that leads into the next issue. I think conspiracy stories can often get a little tiring, but Maberry really pulls the rug out from underneath the audience at the end, via a deception that shows this may not be the story we originally thought we were going to get. It’s great, and I’m really excited to see how it all unfolds with such a diverse blend of scientists and gunmen exploring fresher territory for this genre.
The art is also just so, so good. I loved Sanchez’s work on Star Wars: The Old Republic, so I was really looking forward to it here. I was not disappointed. Sanchez does a really fantastic job of utilizing shadows on characters’ faces to give a boost to intensity or malice, and there’s so many good instances of that here. His action scenes are kinetic and fluid, with a real buzz when things go from zero to a hundred on the page — it’s wicked fun.
Not to repeat myself, but part of what makes that last page hook the audience so thoroughly for a second issue is Sanchez’s work. The whole page is a little jarring, a little frightening when you get hit with the implied plot point. It really nails it, and thankfully Jay Fotos is the colorist for the page because the red sky he utilizes really just makes the page work.
Overall: As far as a first issue, Pandemica #1 excels. It can be a little dialogue heavy, but there’s a BIG web to spin here. There are several moving parts between the conspiracy and character relationships, plus a really dramatic ending. 9.0/10
Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Artist: Alex Sanchez
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Publisher: IDW Publishing
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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.