Cartoonist: Erik Whalen
WHAT IS IT?
A neon-soaked, action-packed, cyberpunk fantasy that feels like a comic book analog to your favorite high-octane anime, like Akira, mixed with John Wick.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A man is on some kind of mission, escaping from people who seemingly want to kill him, or otherwise stop him.
We don't know what he wants or where he's going, we just see him fighting like hell to get there. The only other clues we get are the few captions from a conversation, likely between our hero and some mysterious second character.
But who is it? Where is he going, and why? Why are people trying so desperately to stop him, and what happens if they're successful?
First and foremost, and I say it 50 times in this review, but NE:10 is filled with balls-to-the-wall action, and that makes for a read that's thoroughly enjoyable.
Perhaps the one thing you'll likely notice before all that action is Whalen's color palette. It's limited, blown out in pink and glowing mint and off-white. These, combined with some well-placed glow effects, make every panel leap off the page and give the book such a powerful cyberpunk aesthetic, you'll want to immerse yourself in it, covering your walls with the comic's pages.
Even with these few colors, it's amazing the level of detail he’s able to get. The cover image gives you a good idea of what the interiors will look like (something I personally prefer), but you can see in the interior page below the impressive line art and colorwork that Whalen brings to the table.
The captions that act as our narration are calm and poetically phrased, running counter to the action we see unfolding in front of our eyes. The two narratives balance each other and bring nuance to a comic that would otherwise have simply been a straightforward, beat-'em-up one-shot.
I'm a fan of Whalen's lettering in this. For one, caption borders extend rather than being rounded off (example below), which gives a dynamic feel to them. It almost feels like a moment captured in time, like they’d otherwise continue extending as they fade if they were in a motion medium, like TV or video games. But also, Whalen's sound effects are a delight, incorporated well into their art in cool, organic ways and giving scenes depth and texture. Many of the effects are tiny and hand-drawn. A lot of these look similar, helping to establish a style. But others impress with how much they stand out, either in size and design, or my favorite, the "SILENCE" sound effect.
White gutters and page borders lighten what could otherwise be a very dark book. The artwork typically stays within the panel borders, but when an object breaks from this, you take notice. It's subtle ways like this, or using sound effects or perspective, that give this comic a three-dimensional feel.
Small things, like a plaque that just says "NAME OF CITY," or a dude driving a DeLorean, or an Akira homage, level-up the coolness factor of this comic even higher.
I'm always impressed when I see an enjoyable, polished comic coming from a single, talented cartoonist. Erik Whalen is one of those cartoonists, and it just never ceases to amaze me when a single person has all that talent.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I read NE:10 a couple of times, and had trouble putting together what was happening. The dialogue narrative was sparse and flowery, hard to decode meaning when the only context you're given is that this man is fighting people. If you're the type of person where everything needs to make sense and be spelled out for you clearly, this might not be the best comic for you.
People get blown to bits, so maybe it's not the best comic for kids?
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I can't say I fully understand NE:10, but I can say that it looked rad as hell. Honestly, this comic rides the Rule of Cool train, and I am 100% here for it.
NE:10 drips with action and style. Every page turn is another luminous surprise. You'll want to read this one, especially if you're into high-octane battles filled with cars, guns and even swords.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Dis Connect by Erik Whalen
Battling Boy by Paul Pope
R:IL Persona by The Starlight City Project & SKILL3 Studio
If you like the art:
Thumbs by Sean Lewis & Hayden Sherman
Zero Jumper by Patrick Mulholland
Motor Crush by Babs Tarr, Brenden Fletcher, & Cameron Stewart
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Erik Whalen – Cartoonist
Multitalented: Often does all the writing, art, colors and lettering work
Typically writes "different genres of superhero, crime, revenge and fantasy"
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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