HIGH LEVEL #1 [Review]

High Level #1 Cover
HIGH LEVEL #1/ Script by ROB SHERIDAN/ Art by BARNABY BAGENDA/ Inks & Colors by ROMULO FAJARDO JR./ Published by VERTIGO COMICS

It’s hundreds of years after civilization collapsed, yet humanity has continued on. Partly out of sheer stubbornness. Mostly out of habit.

Things have changed since the height of the golden age of the Old World, with new nations and new tyrants warring to control the garbage heap. But some things never change and one of them is that the teaming masses would largely rather seek something more than be content with what they have.

For some, this means finding answers in the bottom of a bottle or the pleasures of the flesh. Others join the armies in the hope of a better life in the service of a higher cause. For others it means following the legends of the Old World in the few books that survived the destruction, trying to find God or meaning. And others follow the legends of the new paradise – a city in the sky called High Level.

Thirteen is one of the few who is content with her life as a scavenger. She is the last person to volunteer to become a hero. Which makes her the ideal candidate to transport a lost girl home… to High Level.

The latest series to emerge from the new Vertigo Comics, High Level is hardly the most original of stories or settings. All the usual trappings of post-apocalyptic fiction are here. Society is a shadow of what it once was and everything that defines our world is regarded as a curiosity at best by the common clay of the New World. There’s even cyborg cultists seeking to purge themselves of the sins of the flesh by replacing as much of themselves with machine parts as possible. If you’ve played the Fallout games or watched any of the many Mad Max rip-offs from the 1980s, you’ve seen this world before.

Thankfully, Rob Sheridan’s script doesn’t waste time on trying to define the world of High Level or make it stand out.  The focus here is largely on the character of Thirteen, and we largely learn about the world as it is through her eyes as she discusses things like the boring book about a man going to a mountain to shout at God that she was once given in exchange for some water. Along the way, we are shown what sort of person Thirteen is (cynical, well-read and resourceful but with a heart of gold under it all) and get to know her and like her before the actual plot is introduced in the final few pages.

It remains to be seen how this story will develop, but it can’t be denied that this is one phenomenal looking book. The artwork by Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo Jr. looks amazing throughout. Again, there’s noting particularly unique about the setting but the artwork presents itself well enough and the colors and general aesthetics continue to catch the eye throughout.

While those who aren’t fans of dystopian fiction will have little reason to give High Level a try, there is enough in this first issue to encourage genre enthusiasts to stick around. I suspect this may read better in the trade, but the characters and story so far suggest this could develop into the next Saga.

4-5

About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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