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STAINED #1

by Thegreatmagnet on May 05, 2017

Written by David Baron
Illustrated by Yusuf Idris
Colored by David Baron
Published by 451 Media
 
I’m a fan of David Baron. He is a fan favorite creator at Valiant, and he has contributed incredible colors to Divinity, Archer & Armstrong, Dr. Mirage and more. This comic is a big step for David. After over two decades in the industry (working mostly as a colorist), this is the first time he’s been officially credited as a writer on a comic. He’s striking out into creator-owned territory with a bold sci-fi vision that balances action and heavier themes.
 
The story follows a cyborg bounty hunter name Emma London who does dirty jobs for Center City Police Department. It’s clear from the very first scene that this society has a stigma against people with metal cybernetic implants, and the issue comes up in almost every scene. The very police department that she works for seems to be plotting against her, with prejudice being the likely motivator. There’s even a slur for people of Emma’s type: stains. It’s easy to read this as an allusion for racism, and I found it surprisingly powerful. Emma’s visceral (and violent) reaction to the slur display the weight of the stigma, and it made me reflect on the racism within our own society. However, I’m also led to believe that there is a class component involved, because only the lower classes can’t afford realistic looking cyborg prosthetics. So the prejudice is really class driven, but it has the familiar trappings of racism. The intersection of racism and classism is intriguing, and I’m curious what themes they will develop as the series continues.
 
Emma is a badass. She appears to be completely made of metal, except for the top half of her head, and her cyborg body has already shown amazing physical abilities. She’s a skilled detective and she can kick the crap out of scary criminals. She gets the job done, and she’s ruffling the feathers of the local police, even as she’s cleaning up their garbage. At the same time, she’s also funny and human, as seen in her interactions with George, her only friend on the police force. I really enjoyed her repeated attempts to engage the deadpan police cashier, and I hope it is setting up something more. Emma strikes me as a lonely person, who throws herself into her job because she doesn’t have much else. I wonder if her loneliness is driven by the stigma, or if there’s something else at play (perhaps the loss of loved ones).
 
I really love the art. Not surprisingly, the colors by David Baron are beautiful. The Baron is truly a master and he blends colors with dramatic, painterly sensibilities. I’ve never seen a book of his that didn’t have awesome colors. The colors on this book have a little bit of a grittier overtone throughout to sell the noir vibe. I also love the art by Idris, which is gritty and dynamic, equally adept at action scenes and quieter moments.  The style is clean yet stylized, and puts me in mind of Trevor Hairsine’s stellar work in Divinity (due to the David Baron connection, I’m sure). I also really enjoyed the unconventional panel layouts that were used at points throughout the book. Top marks for the art.
 
I’m a receptive audience, but even I’m a bit surprised how much I like this book. I’m hooked by the premise and the character, and the art was great. The only thing I will say is that I wish they had spent a bit more time with the general premise, since it seems so interesting. I’ve heard David describe the premise at length in interviews: there was a horrible plague, which required much of the population to replace bodyparts with cybernetic implants, but only the rich could afford lifelike implants. I assume that it was a choice not to outline the premise up front, in favor of launching into the action. I also wouldn’t want them to force exposition into the dialog, but a one-page introduction might've been nice. The underlying premise seems like an important element of the story, especially if they are trying to balance the sci-fi with the more straightforward bounty hunter/detective action. However, I still really enjoyed this book, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
 

Our Score:

9/10

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