Review - NuWay #1 (@AspenComics)

"...we haven't really evolved."

Pulling oneself up by their bootstraps has always been the quintessential way to make advancements in life. Often times though, all that hard work is still capitalized on by those in a better position in life. In NuWay #1 from Aspen Comics, the notion of giving it all you've got to improve is tested by those looking to exploit resolve. The issue is written by J.T. Krul, illustrated by Alex Konat, inked by Mark Roslan, colored by John Starr and lettered by Sal Cipriano.

In the future, technology continues to dominate every aspect of civilization, and nowhere is it more on display than the city of New Sheng, a vast metropolis where those with means live high amongst the lights and those without wallow in the shadows below. In his desperate struggle to reach a better life, a young fighter named Zihao has sacrificed his body in the ring and now prepares to pay an even bigger price in order to battle in the main arena with the elite cybernetically-enhanced warriors. But will seeing another lost soul from his past make his climb easier or harder?

The crux of Krul's script is pretty straightforward and familiar, emphasizing the disparity in wealth between the haves and have nots for dramatic effect. Zihao plays the part of urchin in this story as he seeks to find a way to success via gladiatorial combat while those with wealth disguise their own machinations. Krul spends just about the entirety of the issue telling the reader about the aforementioned wage gap, but unfortunately, there's not much else in the way of character backgrounds or motivation. Sure, there's a brief flashback to Zihao's past with a childhood friend that sets the stage for some of the current events, but other than that there's really not much else in the way of building relationships. It's wholly possible that as the series unfolds more will be explained, but as it stands right now the reader doesn't really know why there are gladiator matches between people and robots for example or what the stakes are for winning said matches.

Konat's pencils are crisp and subtle. Konat draws the characters in a way that emphasizes their sleekness and fits extremely well within the confines of the cutting-edge environment that New Sheng portrays to the reader. Most (if not all) of the action seems to take place in the foreground as Konat emphasizes the look of the characters more so than detailing the events of their surroundings. Roslan's inks are dark and bold, giving the book an inky weight. Starr colors the books with Blade Runner in mind as the city and events teem with an ever-present sense of gloom and dystopia.

NuWay #1 is a pretty light first issue that doesn't force too much upon the reader. Zihao is a fighter fighting for a better life despite a general unawareness in regards to what his role plays in the grander scheme of those above him in New Sheng. Krul's script is pretty airy as it zips along, crashing the reader through some key characters while making reference to events that will likely be fairly ominous down the road. Konat's illustrations are very clean without a focus on detail, relying instead on its simplicity to convey to the reader the emotions of the characters and the weight of their interactions. NuWay #1 is another look at the lengths some will go to in the search for a better life.

NuWay #1 is available July 18.