TEST, ISSUE #4
Writer: Christopher Sebela Art: Jen Hickman Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
TEST is a surreal sci-fi/body augmentation character study.
If you take Elliot from Mr. Robot, and give him the technical body augments of Adam Jensen from the Deus Ex series, then have him go on the run, like in The Fugitive and then drop him into an inexplicable pit of weirdness similar to TV's Legion's brand of odd, you might get close to what TEST encapsulates.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
(Spoilers for earlier issues)
Aleph decides to do their own thing for their own reasons, escaping the weird cult they stumbled upon inside the weird techno-ether. They're just one more faction of Laurelwood who wants to use Aleph for their own reasons and gains.
The journey is strange: on their way, they stumble through different moments in their life. Why? What is this weird techno-thing Aleph is escaping through and how does it know about Aleph's past? Aleph has been through a lot to get to this point, and they're finally going to get some answers.
The best thing about this issue is getting some clarity as to what is going on. It's still trippy and strange, but the book's events and title start to make sense here.
My second favorite part of the issue was Aleph falling through the scenes, illustrated by Jen Hickman in the page below (cropped to avoid spoilers). Hickman's ability to make the real surreal (like through the slow removal of textures and color in a different scene) is worthy of applause throughout the series, and that continues in this issue.
We flash through numerous settings this issue, and Harry Saxon's color work keeps us from confusing one for the other, all while maintaining a palette that feels specific to TEST and its tone.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about character design, but Aleph is a fascinating study. They’re non-binary, and they’ve got a counter-cultural personality, so I’m sure that goes into some of their design. But also, all the technological additions over the years, the scars and stitches from operating on themself...it builds character, and it's a constant remind of who they are and some of the trauma they carry with them.
The concept of "survival" is a major theme this issue. Not in a "Walking Dead" sort of way, but in a way that supports the idea that "perfection" is less about being flawless and more about surviving where others fail, even if dumb luck is a part of that survival. It's kind of interesting to think of something like luck, which is neither biological nor technological, being a part of that perfect survivor.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The fact that Aleph doesn't even ask questions when people say strange (and spoilery) things feels like a miss. They're not even curious what characters mean or what they're alluding to? It seems like an important thing to at least acknowledge.
This whole issue is a hell of a ride, but contains so many spoilers, it's hard to talk too much about it. But trust me – if you've made it this far, this issue is your pay-off. And it packs one hell of a punch.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Null may look like a cyber-punk, but TEST doesn't take place in a cyberpunk world. It takes place in our world. At least, one very similar to our own. Reading TEST feels like watching a piece of technology work. There are many moving parts, each clicking and whirring away, doing its tiny job. But together, all these pieces make a symphony.
I'm pleasantly surprised at how much of TEST revolves around philosophy. It's a title that challenges you to think and resolve things for yourself, not just in the context of each issue or the series as a whole, but in how it relates to your life and belief systems.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Crowded, Vol. 1 by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt
Queen by Jamie Me & Bernard Gita
Hex Loader by Dan Whitehead & Conor Boyle
If you like the art:
Moth & Whisper by Ted Anderson & Jen Hickman
Vagrant Queen by Magdalene Visaggio & Jason Smith
Fearscape by Ryan O'Sullivan & Andrea Mutti
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Christopher Sebela – Writer
Has an adorable dog that he loves very much
Multitalented: Used to be a journalist and a graphic designer
The comic he writes, Crowded, has just been nominated for an Eisner Award for the third time
Jen Hickman – Artist
From their website: "Their primary passions are exciting narratives, good coffee, and exceptional grammar."
Their art style is very versatile, able to change a great deal from comic to comic. It's also a good balance between clean and detailed or messy for some great texture without feeling overwrought.
You can buy their sketchbooks and comics on their Gumroad
Harry Saxon – Colorist
Outlander: Lives in England, but born in Greece
Test of Time: Has worked as an independent illustrator and colorist since 1999
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
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 does all the design work for Vault Comics
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse and Burning Fields with Michael Moreci
HOW DO I BUY IT?
TEST drops next week. Pre-order it from:
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