LIMBO, VOL. 1
Writer: Dan Watters
Illustrator: Caspar Wijngaard
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A cajun/VHS-inspired neo-noir detective mystery dripping with an '80s aesthetic and bridging spirituality with decades-old technology.
It's not as heavy-handed with the "noir" genre as Sin City or Drive. Think Matt Fraction's version of Hawkeye, but with no memory, dropped into Chinatown, except instead, it's Louisiana's bayou.
In some ways, it also reminds me of Resident Evil 4, with its lonely quiet, its feeling of a whole country out to get you, and its natural or more citified environments.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Clay woke up 9 months ago with no memory of who he is or how he got to the strange city he's in.
He's made do as a detective, even though he can't detect the answers of his past or where he came from.
As you might figure with regard to the genre, Clay's life gets turned upside-down when a woman hires him for a job and he gets sucked deeper into a surreal, supernatural journey that he was never prepared for...and that he may not survive.
I am all about the A E S T H E T I C of this book, with its blues and pinks, its glow effects and moody lighting, its mysticism and where it intersects with '80s technology.
Artist Caspar Wijngaard's use of white and negative space brightens what could easily be a very dark book and give it its unique style. It also brings accents to darker pages. the white also works with Jim Campbell's captions to stand out against the blues and pinks and darker tones.
As with any noir worth its salt, Wijngaard's use of lighting not only sets the mood in a way that plays well with the genre trappings, but also to make characters look more menacing or otherwordly.
On top of the lighting and shading, the color and design brings so much to the table with regard to tone and emotion and style, between elements that glow with electricity or raw power, interstitial chapter pages getting more and more static, and thoughtful uses of the medium, like breaking panel borders and the traditional reading order for a multidimensional, dynamic reading experience.
There's a surprising amount of humor to Limbo, even during extremely tense, creepy moments. The dialogue, itself, is humorous and clever, and there are some situations that also take away from the tension a bit, too. The comic relief is welcome, and adds some texture to what could be a much dryer comic. In fact, the recurring jokes and themes help make the comic feel more familiar and cohesive.
At first, I thought the location of the story, Dedande, was supposed to make the reader think of "Dead End." Like Clay’s stuck here, unable to move on. And, after reading it, that can certainly be one interpretation. However, seeing the bonus content, the word “Deadhand” is used. And that makes me think back to all the mentions of “Thumb” and Clay’s hand, especially in the final chapter. I wonder if Clay’s hand is meant to be a part of the greater mystery to be explored if the creators continued with the title.
"Clay" as a name for our hero and a concept for him works on several level and makes "identity" a central theme in the title. I think, if the series had continued, we'd see this highlighted more, but the idea that clay is something that is shaped by outside forces and forged by fire into something new is a concept that works well with a character who may have a shady past, but seems like a good guy now.
There are so many cool and creepy elements throughout, things I want to talk about but don't want to spoil. But Limbo is also a lot of fun, from the adventure and mystery elements to seeing Clay in different TV shows or other media. It's a very enjoyable ride.
The incorporation of cassette tapes into more natural, organic environments or other places they don’t belong is a neat visual effect. In fact, there’s a good amount of thought given to visual effects unifying actions from one panel to another, too. You might “get it” without, but they help bridge that gap in a smart, stylish way.
Love the creepy '80s backmatter and the comic's accompanying playlist.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Though you could easily imagine more to the story, there's currently no plans for a sequel. Both creators have listed their own reasons why they don't want to pursue it, and they make sense, but it's a shame because I really enjoyed this comic.
That being said, Watters and Wijngaard are both white and almost all of the characters and culture represented in this comic are...not. A lot of media discourse this year has revolved around a "Nothing about us without us" theme, so I could see that as a contributing factor to not wanting to revisit the title.
There's a man Clay interacts with toward the end, and it looks...like Clay. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not (if not, it kind of seems like something they should have caught), and without another few issues, we won't find out. Would love to know, either way.
This is the third comic I've reviewed this week where "amnesia" is used, and the concept is already a trope in all media. That being said, they use it well, so I'm not really complaining.
Cursing and violence make it not the best comic for kids.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Limbo drips with style and swagger, and the '80s-meets-old-world environment Watters and Wijngaard have built is one you'll readily, willingly, excitedly immerse yourself in from the first few pages.
If you're a fan of modern-day noir stories or creepy mysteries involving voodoo and old technology themes, you're gonna love Limbo.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Deep Roots by Dan Watters & Val Rodrigues
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja
Casanova, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction & Michael Chabon & Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
If you like the art:
Angelic by Simon Spurrier & Caspar Wijngaard
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Hex Loader by Dan Whitehead & Conor Boyle
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dan Watters – Writer
Part of the White Noise collective with other extremely talented comics creators
Outlander: Lives in London
Caspar Wijngaard – Illustrator
His clean line art is reminiscent of Jamie McKelvie's style
Multitalented: Often colors his own work and seems to gravitate toward bright palettes of blues and pinks, similar to colorist Matt Wilson's style.
Jim Campbell – Letterer
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world
Prolific: Has done lettering for a large number of hit titles
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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