Ordinary #1 Review
A strong central character, an interesting premise, lovely art.
There are some familiar pieces to this tale, and Michael may actually be too much of a schlemiel.
Michael is a perfectly mundane man in what can only be described as a sad little world. Things are about to get more interesting for him, but whether or not that’s a good thing is debatable. Your Major Spoilers review of Ordinary #1 awaits!
Previously in Ordinary: Imagine a world just like ours, where perfectly mundane jerks go about their lives in squalor and the usual quiet desperation. Now, imagine you’re a man named Michael, who can only be described as a sad sack, a balding plumber who owes money to all the wrong people and has no way to pay it back. That may seem like a pretty crapsack world, but things are about to get even more confusing for our Michael, but sadly no less depressing…
“I HAD THIS DREAM…”
The first few pages of any #1 issue, especially one that doesn’t tie into an existing shared universe, are key to the book. They have to set a tone, give you enough information to go on without being a massive info-dump, and give us an idea of who and what our story is going to be about. This issue’s open is pitch-perfect, a first-person narrative by Michael, explaining his dream of dating Scarlett Johansson. “Thing is,” he relates, “it was one of those dream where I was aware it was a dream…” Michael tries to convince her to sleep with him, only to have her give him the “I like you a lot, but” speech. It’s a terrible moment, a crushing blow dealt by his own psyche, and when Michael awakes to find that he’s overslept, we get a look at his life and his apartment. It’s always lovely when art and story work in concert to provide a perfectly paired experience, and this sequence is masterful storytelling that tells us what we need to know about our poor loser protagonist. More humiliation follows, including a run-in with twin mooks, and a dressing-down by his boss/friend, leaving him babysitting an elderly lady while Brian fixes her plumbing.
AND THEN, IT GOT WEIRD
The strangeness kicks in immediately thereafter, as elderly Mrs. Grayson suddenly begins aging backwards, Brian turns into a literal bear, and the entire world goes mad. I really enjoy this part of the story, even though parts of it feel familiar (George RR Martin’s first novel in the ‘Wild Cards’ series had a similar sequence in New York City), especially given that Michael’s first thoughts when it seems like the end of the world are to find and protect his estranged son. Artwise, this issue is atypical, but beautiful, with D’Israeli showing us panel after panel of strange transformations and surreal scenes, but keeping the whole thing grounded in reality, sort of. His characters have great facial expressions and a life of their own, and a sequence where Brian As Bear follows Michael into a bar and tries to bum a cigarette is both funny and fun to look at. My one complaint about the visuals are the use of a rather garish color palette, heavy on the purples and oranges, which does kind of undermine the ‘normalcy’ of Michael’s world a bit. I’d like to have seen the more subtle coloring of his Scarlett dream sequence throughout the book. The end of the issue is utterly bizarre, a wide-shot of Manhattan in lunatic chaos (including a giant baseball player smashing buildings) as ominous jets fly into frame. This book is treading on the same metaphorical turf as the likes of Astro City or Common Grounds, in some ways, but clearly marks its own territory, crossing the line from weird ‘American Splendor’ type story to apocalyptic nutso and having fun doing it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: ODD, BUT CHARISMATIC
Even the familiar bits of storytelling don’t torpedo the enjoyment of the story, but I am left feeling that Michael may be a little TOO much of a worthless jerk, almost reaching the level of Hollywood schlemiel that feels unrealistic. Of course, given that people all around him are transforming in bizarre ways, maybe realism isn’t the point. Either way, I especially like the fact that everyone refers to the goings-on as “the end of the world” or likewise, save for one young man, who believes that he (and everyone else) is just having an origin and getting their super-powers. (He also then proceeds to call Michael “the unluckiest man on Earth” for remaining untransformed.) Ordinary #1 sets up its premise expertly, and delivers above-average art and interesting story, making me interested in seeing more of this world, and earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.