Writers: Rick Quinn & Milton Lawson Art: Martyn Lorbiecki Publisher: Aurora Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A 16-page "one-shot" murder mystery in a futuristic setting.
It's like if It Follows took place in the Blade Runner universe. Kind of reminds me of 2008's The Signal or an updated version of your favorite viral horror flick.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The story here is very short, so I don't want to say too much out of fear of spoiling anything.
When two detectives encounter a version of a locked-room mystery, they set off to crack the case.
But as more people start dying in a similar fashion and signs begin to point to stranger suspects, solving a mystery becomes the least of our heroes' worries.
The concept of toxic nostalgia (or, at least, the dangers of longing for your past) is such a fascinating mechanic, and one that may hit close to home for a generation of people that think about those better days on a fairly consistent basis.
While it's difficult to tease out Lawson's contributions separately from Quinn's, the overall story is tight and emotional and effective. Rick Quinn knows how to tell a powerful story in a short space, and he and Lorbiecki work very well together.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of Martyn Lorbiecki's art from past comics, but he's even stepped it up from those with the interiors in Earworm. Using a more organic medium like watercolor to define a futuristic city leads to a cool, unexpected aesthetic. The glow effects bring the technological aspects of the comic to life and have a cool symbiosis with the watercolors.
The comic's cover (shown above) is reminiscent of a classic movie poster.
Big points for representation, since the main character, Minnie, is not a straight, white man.
Lorbiecki uses brown tones and desaturated colors for the normal, mundane world. But the more surreal aspects or the comic are vivid and electric, and the swirling pools of color behind the panels and around certain elements are brilliant to see. Those moments are rare, at least at the beginning, so the rare vivid color is the equivalent of a scream, or a fireworks show or a galaxy being created. If it were a film, it would be that needling sound effect that gets louder and more pronounced throughout the scene, impossible to ignore.
Those aforementioned color effects work together with the panel placement to elevate big, surreal moments and make them hit hard. In a scene toward the end of the book, white borders help the memories blend into one another and feel more connected, and the journey the captions take us on loops just like the memories related to us through the narration do. This scene, more than any other, shows how well the entire team works together. If it doesn't make you gasp when you see it, you're reading it wrong.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou's lettering work is always a creative delight. If he wasn't a big deal, I wouldn't have the spelling of his name memorized. His word balloons look hand-drawn, matching Martyn's panels, and his font choice looks especially created to appear hand-drawn, as well. It creates an overall effect that's gritty and natural rather than the cold, sterility we so often see in futuristic fiction.
Otsmane-Elhaou's font and caption style changes based on the art and events in the comic. The dialogue effects for memories feels bigger, more emotive. Narrative captions go askew as characters become emotionally unstable. Caption boxes turn into a painted strip against a splatter effect.
Even though you may be able to guess how the comic will play out, it's so well done and thrilling, you can't help but soak in every page.
Don't miss this Easter Egg! There's a movie poster for Quinn & Lorbiecki's previous comic, The Ghost Butterfly. Does this imply a connection between universes?
Bonus points for the appearance of Belle & Sebastian.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
It's not available yet (as of May, 2019) but I want you to read it right now.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Earworm is not only a fresh and innovative concept, it's gorgeously painted, to boot.
Quinn & Lorbiecki have partnered up on comics before, but this is their best work.
You may find yourself thinking about Earworm the next time you have a song in your head. It sticks with you that way...
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Ghost Butterfly by Rick Quinn & Martyn Lorbiecki
Winter Sale by Milton Lawson & Dave Chisholm
Dept. H, Vol. 1 by Matt Kindt
If you like the art:
Drift by Edward Haynes & Martyn Lorbiecki
Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire
Instrumental by Dave Chisholm
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rick Quinn – Story & Script
Multitalented: Also works as an artist, a graphic designer and a filmmaker
Tends to write shorter, single-issue ("one-shot") comics
Recently funded (via Kickstarter) his next comic, Spirit Drifters
Milton Lawson – Script
Also writes travelogues and webcomics
Martyn Lorbiecki – Art
Often works in watercolor and on one-shot or anthology comics
Is a big fan of, and is influenced by, anime, cyberpunk and dystopian sci-fi
Outlander: Lives in the UK, but is half-American
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer
Multitalented: Edits PanelxPanel, the digital magazine about comics, and also writes comics & films
Outlander: Lives in the south west of England
Has a comics podcast with Aditya Bidikar called Letters & Lines
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Follow Rick Quinn's Twitter for updates!
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