REVIEW: Nowhere Men #1

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Nowhere Men is the new project from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson. Does this first issue go anywhere? Major Spoilers has the review.

NOWHERE MEN #1
Writer: Eric Stephenson
Artist: Nate Bellegarde
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Lettering Design: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99

Nowhere Men #1 is an ambitious piece of work, jumping between times, characters and differing kinds of expository matter. Proclaiming “science as the new rock and roll,” it features the union of four very different scientific minds as they found super-science research organization World Corp.

OUT OF STEP RHYTHM

This issue is a bit of an odd duck. It opens with single page of the four scientists prepping for a press conference in the 1960s as they prepare to open World Corp, immediately followed by a false document magazine profile of the protagonists. Then comes a jump forward in time for a boardroom squabble between three of the scientists. The rest of the issue then follows an unintroduced research team in a mysterious locale suffering from strange disease, before closing with a magazine interview of absentee World Corp head Thomas Walker.

The narrative is purposefully oblique – obviously, the whereabouts of drug-addled genius Thomas Walker is to be one of the main mysteries in the story, as are the changes that occur in the key figures’ relationship over time. The “science equals rock music” idea is an interesting one that Stephenson executes well. The four-headed nature of World Corp resembles the classic four-piece rock band setup, with explicit stated echoes of the Beatles. Thomas Walker’s rambling, drug-addled interview that closes the issue recalls Syd Barrett (or any other number of wasted musical geniuses). But the thread is lost in the latter half of the issue when it deals with a thinly sketched research team working on some  mysterious project, battling a disfiguring illness. It’s all a little too mysterious to actually hook the reader, and it ends the issue on a totally different footing than the initial focused premise.

STYLIN’

Nate Bellegarde’s art comes off stylistically similar to Steve Dillon’s work; very clean and just detailed enough to not be distracting or fussy. The strange structure of the issue lets him do some fun minimalist Pop Art-type narrative breaks. All of his characters look distinct and realistic, and while some of the backgrounds end up being blank space, most everything else is quite appealing. Bellaire’s coloring scheme is bright, matching the overall bouncy energy of the issue.

NOT PERFECT BUT DEFINITELY INTERESTING

I respect Stephenson’s ambitions on Nowhere Men, even as I think this issue’s reach exceeded its grasp. It hit the ground running a little too hard, leaving me unable to properly process the core conflicts and characters and how they relate to one another. There are so many balls in the air – corporate necessity versus idealism, a Syd Barrett-styled scientific genius, a research colony dealing with disease and isolation – that none of the individual stories got the attention they deserved. I feel that over time, these problems will wash out, as more issues fill in the gaps created by this first issue. Nowhere Men #1 is not a stunning debut, but it is definitely an intriguing one. Nowhere Men #1 earns three out of five stars, and definitely a second look from yours truly further down the road.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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