HEIST or HOW TO STEAL A PLANET, ISSUES #1-3
Writer: Paul Tobin Art: Arjuna Susini Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An intergalactic heist story that's not afraid to go big. REALLY big.
It's got all the hallmarks of your favorite heist stories, just one more likely set in the world of Blade Runner.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Glane Breld just got out of prison after many, many years. We don't know what he was in for – just that he's barely been out for an hour before he starts putting together a team for the biggest heist yet – stealing an entire planet.
But the team Glane's putting together isn't exactly stable. There's history there. Dangerous history. And stealing a planet's not exactly a small-time job.
Plus, the guy who put Glane in prison in the first place? Yeah, he's even more powerful now. And he's not happy Glane's walking free.
Oh, and did we mention every crook and gang member wants Glane Breld's head?
Yeah, nothing about this is gonna be easy. But who else could pull off something this big?
HEIST is dark. The lighting is dark and moody, and all of the characters look concerned. The color palette Vittorio Astone uses is dark and alien, with powdery greens and purples. the humor is dark and dry – you might have to read a balloon a second time before you realize you just witnessed a joke. It's not "dark" in the sense of being morbid or hope-punk-y. It just has a style similar to some of the futuristic sci-fi favorites and it sticks with it.
That said, HEIST is funny. The jokes aren't common, but their rarity means they evoke a hearty laugh when they do appear. And the comic relief is welcome here, with how dark and tense the rest of the story is. From the names of products (like "Nutkick soda"), to Celene's reason for joyfully helping murder someone who may or may not be Glane, to a juxtaposition of a scene where a gang member named Jole is celebrated and the next scene where he's dead and being called a "no-name guy," and some especially great moments with Gaville, HEIST is far more humorous than dystopic.
Writer Paul Tobin maintains that tension well at all times through multiple ways. With so many people wanting to kill or imprison Glane, both from within his crew and without, there's a constant sense of danger. Knowing Glane wants to protect his identity adds another layer to that sense of danger – what if people find out who he is? Wanting the Heist to be successful and seeing all the issues that could arise later also adds to the tension, and it's this sense that something could go wrong at any moment that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Tobin also knows his genres. While he lets artist Arjuna Susini bring a lot of those science fiction elements to life, he also knows that good sci-fi is often rooted in the modern-day. Holographic ads, government thought-monitoring, prisoner rights and the lives they come back to...all these are rooted in very real issues today and thus feel very likely to exist in this alternate-reality future. He also knows where the necessary beats are to bring a heist story to life, and he makes building the crew (one of my personal favorite hallmarks of any heist story) a humorous-yet-suspenseful experience at the heart of these first two issues.
Last thing about Paul Tobin, I promise: Tobin's an expert at telling us what we need to know in compelling ways. We get delivery of exposition sprinkled into conversation organically, so it doesn't seem like a history lesson. And this is necessary, 'cause Glane Breld's got some serious history. Plus, we get a good catchup in issue #2 of the first issue's events, with all the important points woven into the dialogue well.
Arjuna Susini brings the world to life through some intensely detailed line art. It makes scenes easier to imagine and to immerse yourself in. Sometimes, this detail is in the backgrounds, showing shadows and wires and grime to bring the environment to life, and others, it's in character designs that the dialogue never even touches on, like the bartender's robot arm, below. Susini's style sometimes streeeeeeetches human facial expressions just a bit to exaggerate them. They can fall into the Uncanny Valley just a bit, but it plays to the comic's strength.
Susini also subtly uses irregular framing to heighten suspense and drama or to bring a sense of potential danger to a venue. In fact, you can tell he puts a lot of thought into his panels, using unity of theme for his transitions, building tension by slowing moments down to ramp up tension or build up to a larger payoff, and varying points of view in the comic to make it more visually interesting. Plus, there are a few times where the art and letters force your eyes to zigzag across the page, and this also helps the reader slow down and take in the art before blazing ahead with reading the next page.
The city's style is fascinating, a mishmash of different architecture styles under construction with new world neon hanging everywhere.
I appreciate the texture Astone's colors bring to the page. It's a little coarse and very eye-catching, and brings the world to life perfectly.
We haven't fully dived into Glane Breld's reason for this latest heist of Planet Heist in HEIST, but it definitely seems that there's an element of revenge, there. And a heist rooted in a revenge story is doubly interesting.
I'm a sucker for sci-fi where words replace curse words (see: "Frak" in Battlestar Galactica), and that's definitely a thing in HEIST.
The incredibly on-the-nose naming conventions for things in HEIST is a treasure. Naming the planet "Heist" may be a little confusing and, as yet, unexplained, but it's fun. Calling a dive bar "The Low Bar" is spot-on, as is "Liaison Park" as a place for couples to hook up.
Letterer Saida Temofonte impresses with uniquely shaped caption boxes and location captions that look shiny and technologically advanced.
Temofonte's sound effect work is fresh and fun, with big, organic, almost savage effects that contrast the futuristic environment. I think they might be hand-drawn, though the typeface looks familiar, but they're often gritty and asymmetric, making them feel more visceral.
Contrasting against the bigger sound effects are the tiny, almost cute "splash" and "tinkle" effects later on – their daintiness and the circumstances they're used in bringing a surprising, endearing amount of humor to the moment. Honestly, even the sound effects in the middle are a joy to the point where I just noted them: "spank spank spank" and "BURST" were stand-out in issue #3, and starting that same issue with the textured BAMM BAMM BAMM with the seemingly nonchalant murder of a beloved main character was one hell of a way to kick things off.
Memorable quote: "I only feel like me when I feel like someone else." Brings back memories of high school acting for this ex-thespian yeti!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There's nudity...kind of. If you're sensitive to this for any reason, be aware.
The very first page of issue #1 had a lot going on and no main character to latch onto, and it kept subconsciously pushing me away. I'm glad I finally came back to it and read further, because it's been a really enjoyable series so far!
I'm struggling a little bit with the antagonist's motivations. They seem so thin that I wonder if we'll get the "real" motivation for his action later, or if it's the team's intent to focus less on that and more on the present-day storytelling because that's where the meat-and-potatoes of the story is. That said, it's so petty, it makes sense for a well-off character like him.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Captivating and surprisingly very funny, once the ball gets rolling in HEIST, you won't be able to put it down.
If you're at all into science fiction, heists or stories about revenge, this is likely right up your alley. I'd say I'm amazed at how much I liked it, but the creative team is great, their creative vision is clear, and the publisher always puts out quality comics, so I guess I'm not too terribly surprised!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Bandette by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover
Heavenly Blues by Ben Kahn & Bruno Hidalgo
Conceptual Heist by Jay D'Ici & Matt G. Gagnon
If you like the art:
The Replacer by Zac Thompson & Arjuna Susini
Vagrant Queen by Magdalene Visaggio & Jason Smith
Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Paul Tobin – Writer
Name Recognition/Award Winner: He's a New York Times bestselling author and the winner of multiple Eisner Awards
Dream Team: Worked on the award-winning comic, Bandette, with his wife, Colleen Coover
He also writes books for younger readers, and has written many Marvel and The Witcher comics
Arjuna Susini – Illustrator
Outlander: Lives in Italy
Most of his work is done through traditional means, but he also has some experience with digital art
Vittorio Astone – Colorist
Outlander: Freelance comic artist & colorist from Rome
Opinion: His colors in this remind me a lot of Jordie Bellaire's in Moon Knight and Injection
Saida Temofonte – Letterer
Test of Time: A veteran letterer with over a thousand issues credited to her
Multitalented: Also works as a Graphic Designer & Production Artist
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor-In-Chief of Vault Comics, and plays the role of editor on most, if not all, of Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Has personally helped other comics creators in their endeavors, even for non-Vault comics work
Tim Daniel – Designer
Multitalented: Also was the writer on Vault title, Fissure
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse, Burning Fields & The Plot with Michael Moreci
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