Despite their popularity, the more well-known comic book markets are the places where stories are most often repeated. That’s not to say that they’re not unique and creative, but the restrictions are there more often than in indie publishing. When an indie creator is able to make something, it’s usually something more personal and less limited, because no one is telling them what to do. And, sometimes, that makes for some really weird and interesting stuff.
That’s the case here, with William Dickstein’s Ch05En series. The premise of the titles focus on the “Ch05En” gene, the one that activates your fate. It can turn people into rock stars, billionaires, and even superheroes. The focus of this volume is of one whose gene did something else entirely, turning the young Grizz into a feral animal, giving him an intensity that is hard to rival, as well as animalistic abilities.
Focusing on one character (one specifically from Episode 2 of the Ch05En series, which was released in 2014 as a novella) is an occasionally tough route, since that kind of focus could reveal a lack of depth in the characters. This is taken care of in this one by showing us the tragic backstory of Grizz, a man who was activated during the savage death of his brother, and then spent the next three decades working as a “cape,” which is exactly how it sounds. After losing his lover and suffering another massive tragedy during his teaching phase as a senior cape, we join Grizz and his associates as they complete their final mission and avenge the death of his fallen love.
The premise of this series is really cool and puts a pretty unique spin on the typical superhero genre. That being said, the presentation of the series itself was a bit rough. Will Dickstein obviously knows this universe very well and gives us a major glimpse into the world with this miniseries, but, despite that, the story was sort of hit and miss. The plot felt a bit rushed in places, and despite what looks to be a huge effort from letterer Lukasz Marco, the dialogue never quite felt like it fit with the art which is the strong suit of this title.
While very unconventional, the style by artist Kamil Boettcher was pretty great. Heavy lines, distinctive expressions, and some frenetic action were all over the four issues I read, and the story was much better for it. The same is true for some truly awesome character design, which I’m sure was a major joint effort by the entire creative team, but really shown off well by Boettcher.
This is very obviously a labor of love for these creators, and it shows. It’s by no means perfect, but it is a fully fleshed out world with some cool-looking characters and a pretty interesting twist at the end. Very much worth the read.