Oliver #2 // Review
It’s never easy to hear about a past that’s been kept secret. It’s difficult enough to come to grips with a present that’s been cast in shadows. Writer Gary Whitta and artist Darick Robertson explore a bit of both in the second issue of Oliver. The dystopian sci-fi series inspired by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist steps out of the shadows and into a bit of intrigue with colors by Diego Rodriguez. The story develops in an interesting direction with drama and a few powerful visuals that seem to be establishing the foundations of potentially clever political commentary.
As the issue opens, we see a fugitive from a vicious, totalitarian England run down and interrogated. The interrogation doesn’t go particularly well for anyone, but knowledge of a special child is leaked to the authorities, who are now bent on finding the child. Elsewhere, a young Oliver is restlessly lurking around the fringes of society with a few others who would prefer it if he kept a low profile. Proving that he’s willing to maintain discipline by shaving his head to look like everyone else, they allow him to come into the government workhouse so that he can learn a little bit more about the world.
Whitta reveals the darkness about the world with some pretty striking moments in this second issue. Oliver turns out to be something more than an orphan. There’s anger in that knowledge that brings some compelling drama to the page. Elsewhere the dark world beyond Oliver’s home Whitta is revealing just how gruesome thing s are in a nation that maintains order in some pretty grizzly ways. The first half of the issue focuses on a victim of the state. The second half shows possibly foolish heroism in the face of oppression. It’s a delicate balance that feels a bit more successful in its second issue than it was in its first.
Robertson is given a couple of really dramatic moments to illustrate and he delivers them vividly to the page. The image of Runaway Alley is a vivid depiction of brutality powerfully contrasted against the cold civility of a culture that would bring about such brutality. Elsewhere, the scrawny, little Oliver extends an empty bowl to a massive guard in a gas mask holding a shotgun as terrified workers look on from a long mess hall lunch table. Robertson gives the visuals enough room to allow for maximum impact. There isn’t a whole lot of physical action in the issue for Robertson to render, but the drama is given a tremendous amount of weight in a thoroughly chilling dystopian outing. Rodriguez bathes the visuals in grays and tans and greens. This time around there’s also some sanguineous reds that feel sickly angry under the weight of all the drama.
Whitta and company are beginning to show the potential in fusing Dickens’ classic with dystopian sci-fi in comic book format. There’s a balance here that could define the series if the creative team can find the right mix of drama, mystery, and brutality to navigate through the plot in the months to come.