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Carbon Grey #1

Posted by Luke Brown On March - 7 - 2011

Last week saw the release of Carbon Grey #1 from Image Comics, after spending close to ten years in development. The series, created by Hoang Nguyen, is chock full of some pretty impressive imagery. Unfortunately, the story is all over the place and very hard to follow.


There’s a war on. Somewhere, in some other time, a regime of iron cross-wearing militants is taking hold of the world bit by bit. Unfortunately for that army, its leader has just been violently assassinated. The assassin, the kaiser’s own personal guard, flees, destroying a zeppelin in her wake. Elsewhere on this strange new world, a buxom woman goes undercover in a brothel to steal a high-ranking official’s pass key. Back at the capital, a stunning chancellor is given news of the leader’s demise, and deals with the update by killing her messengers. Still, a fourth woman is somewhere secluded, being groomed to be the new hero of her generation. The four women? All sisters. The sisters Grey to be exact. They’re all descendants of some long-dead hero named Gottfaust. According to the story, there have always been three sisters, but twins were born in this most recent crop of siblings, which has apparently complicated the delicate political ecosystem of this world. At least, I think that’s what’s going on.

There are so many different viewpoints in this story, it’s hard to keep it all together. With four writers working on the book, you’d think there would be a better sense of narrative. That’s just not the case. In the back of the book, Nguyen makes mention of the fact that he had trouble tying all of his ideas together, and that the other writers helped focus the story. If that’s true, I’d hate to have seen what this tale was like before it was “fixed.” Characters are introduced with much visual fanfare and little characterization. There’s no sense of motivation, and beyond all the girls being attractive, there’s not much resembling a character trait anywhere. It’s a shame too because the imagery involved showcases a world I want to be immersed in. There’s a great design sense at the core of the book, and not just in the clothing and characters. The world clearly has some depth. It’s just not explored at all beyond the locations and the backdrop of the war. Truthfully, the book has a lot going for it stylistically. Carbon Grey‘s interiors are very nice. Both Nguyen and Evans bring a lot to the table, and the different styles used in telling this story mesh well. But a comic has to be more than just pretty pictures to keep me interested, and Carbon Grey never evolves beyond pretty ladies with fancy guns. That said, I do absolutely love the final page of the opening. It’s just a shame the three silent panels on that page pack more punch than anything else in the entire book.

I really wanted to like Carbon Grey. The preview pages alluded to a wonderfully rendered high-octane adventure set in some sort of alternate fascist universe ripe for rebellion. There are hints of that scattered through this first issue, but the story and characters are so disjointed, it’s really hard to get a handle on what’s happening and why. With so many stories fighting for readers’ dollars, you’ve really got to have your stuff together when releasing a new mini-series. Sadly, Carbon Grey‘s first issue just doesn’t have the cohesiveness it takes to make me want to keep reading.

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