Afterburn #1 (ADVANCE)


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Afterburn #1 (ADVANCE)


  • Words: Scott Chitwood & Paul Ens
  • Art: Wayne Nichols
  • Inks: Nick Schley
  • Colors: Marc Hampson & Andrew Dalhouse
  • Story Title: Chaos and Profit
  • Publisher: Red 5 Comics
  • Price: $2.95
  • Release Date: Jan 23, 2008

Afterburn #1 has one of the best sci-fi comic concepts since Y: The Last Man. A solar flare has decimated half of the planet, leaving Europe and Asia in ruins and overrun with cognizant mutants. Writers Scott Chitwood and Paul Ens wisely recap this information in the first few pages before skipping ahead an entire year, much like the time jump employed at the beginning of Y and the similar epic, Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead. This allows the first issue to focus more on the long term effects of the disaster and less on the kind of immediate aftermath we’ve seen done to death in film and television.

The story picks up with Jake, a Texas born oil driller who’s become a treasure hunter in the wake of the disaster. Since the solar flare, the devastated countries have been quarantined and wealthy Americans have turned to illegal adventurers to traverse these areas and retrieve valuable artwork and historical artifacts. Along the way, Jake and his band of fellow thieves have to not only deal with packs of Jet Ski riding mutant pirates and zombified sharks, but other treasure hunters who are willing to kill to earn the big scores. All in all, this is a very promising premise with tons of potential for unique stories set against the now familiar post-apocalyptic backdrop.

Where the book falters is its characterization because basically, there is none. Jake is as one-dimensional as protagonists come. He’s a cocky Texan in the vein of Michael Bay films circa Armageddon. And the rest of the cast we’re introduced to have zero dimensions, in fact, most of them don’t even get names. Chitwood and Ens mistake a plethora of Kevin Smithian pop culture references with legitimate character development.

It also becomes apparent as the book goes on that Afterburn is meant to be closer to a high budget action movie that an introspective sci-fi thriller, but the reason that something like Y: The Last Man works is because of the strength of its characters. There’s very little tension here when the crew comes under gunfire or runs up against mutant sharks because we don’t care for the characters yet. But to be fair, this is only the first issue so it’s possible the breakneck pace will slow down over the next three installments of the miniseries. But with only four books to tell an engaging story, you’d think Chitwood and Ens would try and develop these characters as quickly possible instead of giving us two fully fledged adventures in the very first outing.

Special mention must be made of artist Wayne Nichols who does an excellent job rendering the scorched landscape of Afterburn. His backgrounds and character models are spot on and it’ll be interesting to see his art progress as the mini continues.

With such an awesome setup, Afterburn has the potential to be an amazing book and possibly the breakout hit of Red 5’s initial batch of offerings. However, until Chitwood and Ens manage to transform their cast from names on a page and into real characters, the book will continue to straddle the line between good and great.

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