Review - Reality Check #1

"You ever wake up in the middle of the night and can't remember a thing?"

It's hard trying to get into the comic book industry. There are tons of other people like you who want to do the same thing and there's a finite number of spots go around. What's even worse is when all your hard work just disappears from your laptop, only to magically reappear in a way you previously thought was impossible. Sound fun? Reality Check #1 from Image Comics thinks so.

The issue is written by Glen Brunswick, illustrated by Viktor Bogdonavic, colored by Paul Little and lettered by Rus Wooton.

Willard Penn is not too keen on technology in the present, primarily because his newly minted hit comic went down in flames when his computer died on him. It's a scenario all too familiar to many in the creative industry and one that makes it that much more difficult for Willard to get his new book going about a hero more concerned with his libido than serving justice. After an unexpected sell out, Willard can't recall anything about his story. That night the book's hero shows up outside Willard's window refusing to return to the comic until he finds true love. Exasperated, Willard is forced to help the lovesick hero meet the perfect woman. But he'll need to hurry because the book's villain, a homicidal maniac, has entered his world as well.

Brunswick's tale is meta, to put it bluntly. Willard is a character that many can resonate with, struggling to get their "next best thing" work recognized and sold to the masses. The reveal at the end of the issue offers an interesting and less visited twist in giving Willard something else to contend with. Brunswick relies on a present-past-possible future set-up, which gives the reader all the information necessary. It works in this issue and doesn't over-narrate, affording the reader the opportunity to make their own insights regarding the events. And Willard is a character that you really feel bad for, mostly because he's poured his heart and soul in his craft, dealt with tragedy and rarely seems to catch breaks.

Bodgonavic's art fits very nicely in the Image style. It's clean and well-defined, with a wide variety of characters illustrated to show the many dealings in Willard's life. The panel layout is fairly standard, with an emphasis on tall rectangles that flank the sides and dominate many of the pages. The hero in Willard's comic looks like Night Owl from Watchmen and Willard has the stereotypical, down on your luck look that typically accompanies struggling artists. Characters are illustrated in a believable way and the action is easy to follow.

Reality Check #1 is a book that sort of breaks the fourth wall and offers a story that many can relate to. Where the story goes in the next issue is anyone's guess and it has a lot of explaining to do. As a set-up issue, the first one definitely has some intrigue to it, but it's a little uncertain as to where the series really will (or wants to) go. Willard's trials and tribulations make for fascinating reading within the context of the story being laid out; just not completely convinced that it's going to be entirely interesting.

Reality Check #1 is in stores September 4 with interiors below.