Matt Johnson

MAYDAY #1 (of 5) – Comic Review

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MAYDAY is the #1 of 5 in a new series by Alex de Campi, creator of Smoke, No Mercy, and Kat & Mouse, among other things, and artists Tony Parker (This Damned Band, R.I.P.D., F4, etc), and Blond, who appears to have put color on just about everything great (Lobo, Raven #1, Planet of the Apes, Batgirl).

See my other comic reviews here.

MAYDAY #1

I’ve always been a huge sucker for this type of art.

Title: MAYDAY #1

Writer: Alex de Campi

Artist: Tony Parker, Blond

Cover Artist: Tony Parker

Publisher: Image

Release Date: 11.2.2016

I went into MAYDAY #1 with no idea what to expect, other than that I liked the cover art.  I’ve always been a sucker for anything remotely propaganda-ish, and the yellow wisps that make up the face drew me in immediately.  I looked up the creators and the results were impressive so I anticipated a certain standard of storytelling and quality of art.  I will say that not only was I not disappointed in the results, but that I was completely blown away.  I’ve been lucky enough that a high percentage of what I grab to review has turned out to be incredibly excellent and MAYDAY #1 continues that trend to a high degree.

MAYDAY #1 is set in the early 70’s and centers around various agencies scrambling to do their various jobs after a highly valuable Russian General defects to the US, landing in VA, and threatens to spill any and all information available to him.  One of the early panes states “In Russian, there is no word for “defector.”  There are only words for “emigrant” and “traitor.”  To the Soviet authorities, there is no difference.”

So you can guess where the various agencies place their focus.

The US agencies are concerned with building reputations with the information gathered, using the information gathered, and protecting the source of the information-in that order.  The Russians, from the KGB and the GRU are ostensibly working together to protect their interests in any way necessary, with two of their operatives working stateside for the first time.

The two operatives, Rose and Felix, “acquire” their objective and set off to deliver a codenamed package to an undercover contact in San Francisco.  As they make preparations to leave they get distracted by a band of hippies who escort the two to the desert and introduce them to the American dream of the times, drugs, free love, and unexpected consequences.  In the mean-time the US teams work to recover their valuable information in ways that show where the various focus and attention actually lies.

The writing in MAYDAY #1 is tight, revealing a story that has been well thought out carefully crafted.  Multiple threads are followed, and cross and diverge effectively.  The characters, though somewhat stock at first glance, read as genuine and seem driven by human motivations, rather than just items required to carry the story forward.  Everything plays out very cinematically and I am genuinely intrigued at this point, eagerly looking forward to following this story through to completion.  I have no doubt I’m in for a tense ride and can not wait to see where it takes me.

The art..my god.  For the first few pages I felt like I was going to have to rely on the story to carry me through the series if I continued it.  Faces are kind of scrunched and angles were all slightly skewed a bit more than I was comfortable with.  In my head I prepared to mention some gripes about the art and focus on the story, which was already playing out well.  Then the bottom of the third page happened.  From that point on I found myself constantly in awe at both the line-work, the layout, and the coloring of the issue.  This is some absolutely phenomenal work.  Everything from the page layout, to the placement and style of the speech bubbles (and miscellaneous sound and informational overlays), to the stars in the night sky is essentially perfect.  As with a few of the Klaus issues I reviewed previously, there is a series of psychedelic pages that is hands-down some of the best comic art I’ve ever come across.  The colors are vibrant and the imagery is crazy, beautiful and nightmare-ish.

One of the things the art really excels at is hard-light in nighttime panes.  There are some truly stunning images which reveal tracers, reflected and ambient light, and even some scratches and dirt on glass that lesser artists would have completely overlooked.  The scrunched faces I initially wasn’t sold on also effectively portray characters as the story unwinds.  These are people who are all slightly twisted and we see that through the way their expressions are exaggerated.

MAYDAY #1 is an effective combination of storytelling and art.  The world is well thought out and the story is intriguing, with natural-feeling characters and occurrences carrying everything forward.  One of the things that creates a great sense of place and time is the a overt placement of music and, in the “NOTES” section at the end, de Campi speaks a bit about her choices and mentions that there is a continuously updated MAYDAY playlist under her name on Spotify.  She also mentions that this is intended to be the first in a group of miniseries involving these characters as they move through various years of the cold war.  For what it’s worth, I feel this first issue is good enough that I will devour anything further related to this world that gets released.

One last note, and I debated including this but suppose I should.  MAYDAY #1 contains nudity, drug use, sex, and violence.  If you don’t want to see these things you’ll want to avoid this one.

MAYDAY is a 5-part series.  If you enjoy #1 check out #2, out 12.4.16 and #3, out 1.18.17.

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