Vitros are children born of an experiment designed to cure rare and fatal diseases in-vitro. They’re essentially human, but highly intelligent. Like all sub-sets of the population, they’re regarded with distrust, however. Some attempt to blend with society, others are hidden away and yet others are invited to put their exemplary minds to use.
When an explosion at Marinus Labs releases a deadly toxin, the Vitros are blamed. As a group, they are labelled terrorists and are rounded up and imprisoned. They believe they’re going to an island where they can live in relative peace, segregated and secluded. One of their number believes he bought that for his fellows, his price something he hopes never to reveal. Yet another probably believes he’ll be the only man to leave the island. Unfortunately, none of them are likely to leave, as they’re not going where they think.
‘Pariah: Volume 1‘ consists of four chapters that serve as a perfect introduction to the series. Each chapter is luxuriously long for a comic, at over forty pages each. This gives writers Aron Warner and Philip Gelatt plenty of room to tell their story. There is also room for pages of mesmerising blue that separate one chapter from the next. I love the colours used throughout, but the blue pages are really nice.
I like blue, okay?
Over all, the art is outstanding. I really like the style. The inside pages, flyleaves and cover pages feature gorgeous shades of blue that offset the yellow lettering perfectly. I also really like the typography and chapter covers.Yay for clear lettering in both the notes and speech bubbles! Makes this graphic novel a joy to read for us older folk. Thank you, Brett Weldele.
Each of the first four chapters concentrate on the story of a particular character. First up, we have Brent Marks who introduces himself by explaining he is not a freak. He doesn’t seem so. He seems like your average geek as he can perform complex calculations in his head, but finds it difficult to anticipate the thoughts of a girl. (I don’t think he’s the only guy with that problem.) The scene where he tries to figure out if he’s in the middle of a kissable moment is just adorable.
I quickly warmed to Brent’s character. Yes, his intelligence is daunting and probably scary, but he thinks like a kid. He feels left out. He wants to be normal. Unfortunately, he’s not. He’s also not obviously not a terrorist, but you know how it goes. Fear doesn’t discriminate.
Chapter Two gives the inside scoop on the explosion of Marinus Labs. Lila Ellerman’s is/was an employee of Marinus Labs and was in Building 28 when it exploded. She and her fellow Vitros were hired by Marinus to do complicated stuff and that’s just what they did, for a year, until the accident that branded them a terrorist cell. Lila then finds her name on a manifest for a biological weapon project. Obviously, she has been framed.
I liked Brent’s introduction, but Lila’s story really highlights the deft characterisation. The Vitros are highly intelligent, but they’re not super-smart. They over-estimate, under-estimate and miss clues. They lack the worldly experience that will broaden their horizons. They’re kids. Lila is smart enough to convince the majority of the Vitros to stay together, however, and to loosely organise them.
In Chapter Three, we meet Robert Maudsley. He’s one of the first Vitros or the first to be identified and he’s a sociopath. He’s scary. His name cropped up earlier in the comic and I had wondered if he was involved with the Marinus Labs’ incident. Chapter Three answers that question while giving us a good insight to his character.
After coming to the conclusion his parents don’t understand him – really? – Robert strikes out on his own. Before he can sow the seeds of chaos, Franklin Hyde catches up with him. Robert decides to let Franklin persuade him to join his project.
Who is Franklin Hyde? He’s the principle of Chapter Four. Franklin is the son of the United States Secretary of Defense and he’s been kept hidden all his life. It’s his parents who devise the strategy to brand the Vitros as ‘terrorists’. Franklin outs himself after the explosion, however, and makes a call for reason. To save face, his father agrees to his plan. To save his fellow Vitros, Franklin will have to betray them. Will he go through with it?
I really enjoyed this comic. I like the varied personalities of the kids and the fact they were written like kids, for the most part. They’re highly intelligent, but not invincible. There are some good elements here, a great set-up. It’s carefully conceived. Then there is the art, which is just gorgeous. I love the loose lines and colouring. I think it really suits the subject material. It’s inexact, which is a great interpretation of the way the Vitros see themselves. I’m really looking forward to read on.
Pariah #1 is a single issue comic which continues the story, will be available February 24 (2014).
Written for SFCrowsnest.