Writer: Doug Wood
Artist: Matt Battaglia
Letterer: Justin “Lettersquids”
Editor: Nicole D’Andria
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A gritty science fiction crime drama about a veteran’s hunt for the truth after being wrongly convicted of murder and having years of his life stolen through the future’s latest method of punishment, the Leap Machine.
Leap M is a Frank Miller-esque crime drama in a harsh futuristic setting similar to Dredd.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In the dystopian United States, overcrowded prisons force the creation of a new means of sentencing: the Leap Machine, a device that ages the convicted to the time they would have served within the span of an hour.
Haunted military veteran Wilbur learns firsthand the devastation of the Leap M after being framed for murder. With his youth robbed from him, Wilbur is hellbent on spending the last of his days hunting down the person responsible.
As Wilbur will soon learn, sometimes uncovering the truth is a fate worse than death.
Doug Wood’s narrative is tight without an ounce of fat on it. His focus on structure allows for the story to cover multiple time periods in 22 pages without missing a beat.
Matt Battaglia’s artwork is appropriately gritty and uncompromising. A great stylistic choice for a grim science fiction crime drama.
Justin “Lettersquids’” lettering is arguably the most beautiful thing about the book. Lettersquids’ sound effect work has a hand-drawn quality to it that blends in perfectly with Battaglia’s artwork and adds even more intensity to explosions and gunfire.
The concept of the Leap Machine is horrifying. Aging someone by decades to keep the prison population down is speculative science fiction at its best.
Wood’s themes of brotherhood, lost years, and forgiveness were deftly handled with the Leap Machine used as a means to further intensify those already heavy issues.
The third-person narration is captivating, guiding the readers along on Wilbur’s deeply personal journey of revenge. It complements the art without overexplaining what’s going on.
Battaglia put on a collegiate course with his page layouts. They’re varied and consistently have more than six panels per page but are still easy to navigate. The way he could rack up a series of inset panels at the very top of a page to convey a character’s rage was an effective display of visual storytelling that only comics can achieve.
Leap M’s final scene with Wilbur and his tormentor is a haunting payoff to Wilbur’s journey with the characters’ emotions stinging far more than the physical damage they inflict.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: The comparisons to Frank Miller aren't for nothing. This book contains instances of graphic violence.
The world of Leap M is a fascinating one, but Wood's character-driven narrative leaves some tantalizing questions on the table. What kind of a world has a prison population so bad that a device like the Leap Machine is necessary?
In a few panels, the faces of Battaglia’s characters lack the illusion of depth and have an uncanny valley effect to them.
During one of the supporting characters’ introductory captions, the panel is placed on a different character which ultimately disrupts the flow of the story and confuses the reader.
The way Wilbur uses a friend in the police to track down his tormentor is a little too convenient given the nature of Wilbur’s prior conviction.
Sometimes Battaglia’s high-panel-count pages are so constricted that the impact of violence, like the stomp to the knee, is dulled, which is an issue when the scene in question is the story's most emotionally charged.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Leap M is a haunting science fiction crime drama. Underneath the futuristic technology is the uncomfortable truth that many of the United States’ service members are going through similar struggles of loss and self-destruction. This is not an easy conversation to have, but using science fiction to approach the topic from a new angle is an inspired choice. Wood, Battaglia, and Lettersquids effortlessly blend these tough subjects into an unflinching crime narrative that you can’t turn away from.
This one-shot is a strong showcase of what this creative team is capable of. If you’re looking for your next crime drama fix, Leap M is the book for you.
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