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Review: Mind the Gap #1

| May 4, 2012 | 2 Comments

I had quite high expectations for Mind the Gap, despite knowing very little about it.  Really, all I’d heard going in was that it would be a horror/mystery type series, that it would involve a girl experiencing some kind of mental trauma, and that the cryptic teaser images were rather intriguing.  I have of course quite exhaustively documented how Image have been on a roll lately, and this seemed like it could be another stellar new issue #1.  Sadly, upon picking up Mind the Gap #1 this week, I found the end product to be a bit disappointing.

I think my main problem with the comic lies with the visuals.  It is drawn by the Morning Glories cover team of Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback, who have provided some lovely covers for that series, and give us a couple of similarly lovely covers for this one: I had difficulty choosing which variant I wanted to have!  But the downfall comes with the interiors.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very pretty.  The page layouts are skillfully handled, and the anatomy is flawless.  But it’s with the faces that things fall apart.  Too often, the facial expressions are just cold and glassy, like looking at a doll.  Even when the faces are technically detailed, they have this lifeless look that recreates a disconnect, this “uncanny valley” effect.  It’s strange: I have read comics with art that is technically inferior to this, but I’ve liked the art much more because they get the faces right, because even with less detail, the artist captures that spark of life and emotion that lets me, as a reader, connect.  And I just didn’t feel that here.

The problem is further exacerbated by the coloring.  This is entering the realm of the highly subjective here, but in terms of colors, the waxen, hyper-glossy tone employed throughout the book creates the kind of aesthetic that can leave me finding some Dynamite books hard to warm to.  It’s not something I typically associate with Image’s output.  I know this is reading like the ramblings of someone who doesn’t know much about art complaining about more qualified people’s artistic visions, and my reasoning for not liking it may not be much better than “I don’t like it”, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

I don’t want to be a total downer to the contributions of Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback, however.  There are some sequences they just nail perfectly, such as a character emerging from the shadows through the glow of his cigarette, or an eerie double-page splash where our lead character Elle is lambasted with snatches of voices from her lost memory.  As I say, though it may not have resonated with me, I can recognise the objective craft and skill that has gone into the artwork for this book.

Not all the problems with Mind the Gap are visual, though.  The relation to Morning Glories extends beyond the shared cover artists, as much like that series, I felt a self-conscious attempt in Jim McCann’s narrative to write a TV series in comic form, and in particular it feels like that slew of would-be cult dramas that followed in the wake of Lost: Flashforward, The Event, you get my drift.  Like them, comics like Morning Glories and Mind the Gap focus so much on piling on the mysteries and raising the questions that will form an epic, long-running mystery that they lose sight of first getting us emotionally invested in this world enough to care about the answers to these mysteries.  But Morning Glories managed to hold my interest for close to a year in spite of this flaw by having an engaging ensemble of characters, which Mind the Gap thus far seems to lack.  Yes, there is a collection of characters, and they all seem to be filling certain roles and raising certain questions.  But that’s all they really feel like at this stage: pieces on the chessboard getting moved to the points in the plot they need to be, rather than actual people.

I know it’s early days yet, and I’m perhaps being unfairly harsh.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood to enjoy this comic.  All I know is that I really wanted to like it, and this review is a day later than I wanted it to be because I wanted to take a day, and reread it to see if I liked it more.  But the story just isn’t grabbing me.  Like with the artwork, I can recognise the craft, and can see how technically proficient the plotting is, but it just feels cold and clinical.  As I neared the end of my initial read, I was just thinking that – in spite of this being a 50-page comic, and great value for a first issue – there was nothing about this world that made me feel compelled to come back for issue #2, when, in the last couple of pages, a twist is introduced to the concept that suddenly gives us a hook, and makes this mystery much more intriguing.  But was it too little too late to reel me in?  Probably.

I’ve deliberately not mentioned any of the plot.  This is a mystery book, and I think it’s best that you discover what the story is about yourself, if my review hasn’t put you off.  All I can say is, this wasn’t a book for me.  If you’re an avid fan of Morning Glories, or if you like Lost and its various imitators that followed it, you might be a lot more keen on Mind the Gap than I was.  If you’re on the fence, it’s still worth checking out.  50 pages for $2.99, it’s a great deal.  And really, I may be totally off-base here.  The comic is getting some amazing reviews elsewhere.  Maybe months from now I’ll be kicking myself for missing the Mind the Gap bandwagon.  So, if you’re at all curious, don’t let me put you off.

***

     Writer: Jim McCann

     Artists: Rodin Esquejo, Sonia Oback

     Letterer: Dave Lamphear

     Retailer Cover: Adrian Alphona, Christina Strain

     Production: Damien Lucchese

     Logo Designer: Michael Lapinski

     Publisher: Image

     Price: $2.99

     Synopsis: After Elle Peterssen is mysteriously attacked on a Manhattan subway platform, she is left in a coma, the only clues to her attacker trapped inside her mind. No one knows the identity of the person behind this brutal beating or where they will strike next. In this ALL-NEW ONGOING series, everyone is suspect, and no one is innocent. USAToday calls it an “anxiously anticipated modern thriller…Whodunit? McCann’s done it again.”
Eisner-winning writer JIM McCANN joins RODIN ESQUEJO (MORNING GLORIES) and SONIA OBACK (S.H.I.E.L.D., The Defenders) unite for a psychological thriller that will leave you guessing at every turn!

Mind the Gap #1 is available now from all good comic stores.

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Category: Columns, The Creator-Owned Zone

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Comments (2)

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  1. Rich Douek says:

    Hey John,

    just curious, what did you think to the “Pay attention to these parts of the mystery” pages in the back of the book?

  2. Adam Williams says:

    I’ll pre-face this by declaring I am a big fan of series like Lost, Fringe, Flash Forward etc… plus Morning Glories is my favourite comic, so it comes as no surprise that I loved “Mind The Gap”!!

    However I can see and agree with some of what you found wrong with it.

    It’s an odd complaint but in some of the parts I found the artwork and the characters a little too realistic to really suck me in, however I would still rate it a lot higher than most other books out there.

    I tried hard not to compare it to Morning Glories but when you have a supernatural mystery book with a mostly teenage cast and Rodin Esquejo on art duties it’s impossible not to, and this is where I realised it’s short-comings.

    Were I to give Morning Glories opening issue 5 stars (which I would), I’d be forced to mark this down to a 4 star (which I will).

    The reason being, Morning Glories’ characters were a lot more… erm… I don’t want to say Whendonesque, but certainly quippy and larger than life which helped make them very distinctive and likeable, drawing me into their world almost immediately.

    After the first issue of Morning Glories I was in love with the characters so much that I knew I was in it for the long haul and the supernatural mystery elements were just the (very tasty) icing on the cake.

    With Mind the Gap, I’m still hooked, but it’s the mystery that has me as I still feel a little detached from the characters themselves.

    The only characters that stand out to me at all so far is the lad who shares Elli’s dream space, probably because he did have some quirks, and the female doctor, probably because she seems to be the only character apart from the mystery hoodie who was actually doing anything proactive through the entire issue.

    Like I say, I did still really enjoy it and I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it’s the added realism (and the fact “no ones innocent, everyone a suspect”) that’s made the characters a little more impenetrable than I’d like in the hopes that I warm up to them over the next few issues.

    So, 4/5 stars from me!

    And my answer to the last comment, I think the back-up section was a great idea and really got me in the game of playing detective on a re-read!

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