Best Foot Forward features outstanding comics that create an amazing, memorable, and impactful first issue.
Written By: Warren Ellis
Art By: Phil Hester
Published: October 5, 2016 by Aftershock Comics
Often times, when reading a novel, or comics, any story actually, there comes a point when the storyteller fills in the gaps of the unknown. When you crack that first page, reading of characters unknown, places never traveled, it is pivotal to learn about these things so that, as a reader, you can begin to form substance from words. As descriptions of landscape, or personalities arise, the reader is able to piece together the puzzle like structure of the story they’ve delved. Then there’s a book like Shipwreck, by Aftershock, that literally does none of that. It leaves a void of information for the reader that causes a smile and confusion in the most delightful way.
Today I’m going to approach this comic differently. Instead of simply talking about the story and all its pieces, I want to dissect why a book that literally gives so very little to grasp can be such a great thing. First and foremost however, I will run down the basics.
Shipwreck is apparently about a guy who survived that very thing, a shipwreck. The interesting twist in this seemingly simple idea is that from page one to the end of this book, we the readers cannot discern if we are seeing a dream, some form of altered reality, or if in fact this world in which these characters dwell is the Twilight Zone strung out on meth.
From the very first page we are left in this limbo of confusion and intrigue, and we are never freed from it. Instead, we are ingeniously moved along by the main character, Dr. Jonathan Shipwright, as he experiences all the oddities along side us. He’s as confused as we are. He doesn’t know where he is, what’s happening, who he’s talking to, and yet he also seems to be following a familiar path unseen. As though he’s lost in a place he’s never been, yet moment by moment he seems to know his way around this unknown. He moves about in this world, conversing with people he’s never met, yet simultaneously seeing a familiarity with them.
If that isn’t strange enough, there comes a moment when our boy Dr. Shipwright suddenly does some weird stuff, SPOILER when he turns to vapor and passes through a door SPOILER END. Everything about this story is confusing, and the best part, it’s meant to be. We are given very little information, and the information we are given is used so superbly that it delivers the tiniest of hints and then moves on.
What we know by the end of the book is that there was an accident, a shipwreck, this Dr. Shipwright was apart of, and that he had something to do with an experimental project called Janus. We’re never told what Janus is, or what happened. Instead, we’re told that it was sabotaged by someone, and that Shipwright’s life is now obsessed with finding this saboteur.
Now, I understand that what I’ve told you gives nearly nothing to grasp onto. There’s almost no meat on the bones of that story, however, let me say that what Warren Ellis does with this book is fascinating, and it absolutely works in a wonderful way.
Normally we need information when reading a story. That information includes people, places, and things that help build a world and personalities for us to follow. Alongside those things comes a plot, the very heart of a story, and without a plot there is no story. The plot of a story is the point of the story. It is the ring being taken to Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings. The entire point/plot of that story is for Frodo to get the ring to its destination, and destroy it. Everything else in that story circles around that plot in some way.
With Shipwreck, all we are given is the plot without any world building, and nearly no character building. All we know by the end of the first book is that Shipwright is looking for this saboteur. After that, everything is up for grabs. Now, under normal circumstances, this would be frustrating. However, what Ellis does with all this missing information is build tension. He builds a nearly tangible constriction around the story, and then connects the readers to it by attaching that same feeling to the main character.
Once Shipwright is established as being as confused as we are, all sense of disorientation is gone and we are set on the path of revelation alongside him. By causing Shipwright to be both unfamiliar and familiar at the same time it sets us the readers up to understand that we aren’t supposed to understand. That might sound weird, but as you get into this book you quickly realize, all of this confusion serves a purpose and actually creates on heck of an intriguing story.
Everything is built around this mystery. From the character design, to the over all art style Hester brings, mystery and the unknown are the forefront of this book. It is this very thing that takes, what would normally be a frustrating story, into a world of mystery wherein we want to experience everything alongside the stories charcters.
You may start off feeling lost, but by the end of the story you’re as happy and satisfied with being lost as you would be if everything was just explained. That is the mark of a great book because when you can give very little, and deliver much, there is only great things ahead. As we learn more, the mystery will stat to switch places with understanding, and that same character driven story becomes a triumphant story all because we celebrate the unveiling of the initial mystery.
I’m not sure I can over hype this book to people. It was absolutely so much fun to read and experience that I immediately hopped onto my computer to write about it. I loved the massive amount of intrigue and mystery developed instantly. I loved having only the main plot given, and the addition of Hester’s art intensifying every aspect of this book made it far too easy for me to get hooked.
I will definitely be writing about this book as more issues hit. Do yourself a favor and check out issue one. It’s available digitally so you don’t even have to leave your house. Read it. Love it. Enjoy it.