The Gift #10


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The Gift #10


  • Words: Raven Gregory
  • Art: Tyler Kirkham
  • Inks: Marco Galli
  • Colors: Sonia Oback
  • Story Title: Unleashed
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 9, 2005

When the Ancient One bestows yet another strange and terrible gift, the recipient is tested in ways none before him have been—by an adversary, his own shortcomings and that which he loves most.  

Meet Larry. He’s an overweight high-school misfit with serious adjustment problems. He’s in love with his best and only friend Cindy, but can’t tell her how he feels. He is the perfect pawn for the Ancient One. So, too, is jock extraordinaire Jason, the bane of Larry’s existence, himself controlled by a demonic entity bent on destroying humans and taking the world for himself. The stage is set when Larry’s feelings for Cindy become clear after a showdown with Jason. Boyfriend and girlfriend now, Larry and Cindy go to the Sadie Hawkins dance, unaware that their high school is about to become the latest battleground in the Ancient One’s epic struggle.

Though it brings THE GIFT’s first story arc to a close, issue #10 still leaves me feeling as I have for a number of issues now—indifferent and frustrated. Though both impressed and excited by the first five or six issues, I’m indifferent now because the title still lacks memorable characters whom a reader can care about. And I’m frustrated because THE GIFT is actually not that far from being a really strong comic, but can’t get there because it cops out for the easy route whenever it has a chance to step up to its potential.

To illustrate these two points, let’s begin with the writing. Raven Gregory is what I’d call a big-picture writer. Clearly, he has THE GIFT’s overall narrative direction well in hand and knows exactly where each beat should fall. In previous issues he’s demonstrated this sort of focus well, but issue #10 is missing something—the sense that one act is ending and the next is about to begin. Instead, this issue has very much the same structure as several issues before it and unfolds much in the same way. Feeling more like the middle part of an arc than the last, this issue drains momentum from the big picture that’s been coming together for a while. 

But even if the big picture aspect of THE GIFT #10 were spot on, in any sort of storytelling it only makes sense and means something to the reader if the writer is just as in touch with the little picture. Gregory isn’t as skillful at this nuts-and-bolts level of storytelling, particularly where narration and character development are concerned. First-person narration in this issue compliments the action and helps to condense the story neatly into one issue, but the third-person narration is florid and awkward. And just as stiff are the characters. Pawns rather than people, they are simply there to move the story from plot point A to B to C; “C” in this case a self-conscious and uninspired take on “Carrie.” They are driven by basic, simplistic emotions—revenge, all too often—or lacking an authentic emotional life altogether. Perhaps this is a greater flaw considering how much I cringed watching Cindy being depicted as nothing more than an object throughout. Bottom line, lately it’s been difficult to care about THE GIFT’s characters, and thus difficult to invest oneself in understanding or appreciating the intricacy and drama of the larger story that Gregory is telling, regardless of how compelling that story is in itself. 

And now for the art, which, though strong and promising as well, falls short. Clearly, Tyler Kirkham has the natural talent to produce images meriting words like “beautiful” and “stunning.” Indeed, his fine-lined, vertical style has both clarity and rich detail, and is capable of emotional depth. But while a consummate illustrator, he’s not yet a storyteller. The difference? To me, movement, rhythm, and the ability to convince the imagination that events depicted on the page are occurring in real-time. By contrast, Kirkham’s art engages only the eye as static images, not as points in a developing narrative. Subsequently, the burden of storytelling is unbalanced and on Gregory’s shoulders. 

THE GIFT #10 is a disappointment, particularly after promising so much. But despite this, there’s still little doubt that it’s better than the majority of comics on the shelves right now. As a reader, I’m just waiting for it to live up to its potential. If it ever does, watch out.

- Dexter K. Flowers

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