Review - Crowded #1 (@ImageComics)

"Plus, that was the second time someone tried to kill me."

There are days in life when people just rub you wrong the wrong way. Maybe you didn't get enough sleep the night before or maybe you're just in a bad mood, but sometimes the littlest actions can seem so much more egregious. In Crowded #1 from Image Comics, the appropriate response seems to be crowdsourcing an assassination contract in response against the one who aggrieved you. The issue is written by Christopher Sebela, penciled by Ro Stein, inked by Ted Brandt, colored by Triona Farrell and lettered by Cardinal Rae.

Ten minutes in the future, the world runs on an economy of job shares and apps, including Reapr: a crowdfunding platform to fund assassinations. Charlie Ellison leads a quiet, normal life until she’s suddenly targeted by a million-dollar Reapr campaign. Hunted by all of Los Angeles, Charlie hires Vita, the lowest-rated bodyguard on the Dfend app. As the campaign picks up speed, they’ll have to figure out who wants Charlie dead before the campaign’s 30 days—or their lives—are over.

There's a seemingly grim inevitability about Sebela's plot in Crowded #1, but the fact that it's fiction for now makes for a great story. In fact, Sebela predicates the entirety of the issue (and presumably series) on the gig economy and its effect on how easy it is find anyone to do anything. Charlie Ellison is a pretty relatable to character in that Sebela writes her with an affinity for doing odd jobs to get by yet having no clue as to who set up a campaign to assassinate her. The interplay between Charlie and Vita is quite entertaining with Sebela infusing the dialogue with fast conversation and an abundance of witty retorts. It's not entirely clear if the plot will venture out of the confines of exploring the societal effects of an app like Reapr or Dfend, but at the very least Sebela ends the issue with a heightened sense of danger.

Part of what makes Crowded #1 work so well is the artwork by Stein and Brandt. Stein's pencils are very edgy and hip, befitting of a tale that emphasizes youthful sensibilities that typically accompany gig apps in that it's a very stylized approach. Brandt's inks amplify things even further in providing an appropriate level of detail for things like massive explosions and old houses. The panels are mostly organized saved for a few pages where the layout is shuffled somewhat; there's also a fantastic full-page where a house is being toured in a way that shows it all at once. Farrell's colors are bright, popping appropriately considering the tone of the story.

Crowded #1 is a fascinating take on the work for hire economy. Charlie is someone getting by on odd jobs until someone takes out a contract on her, prompting her to seek out Vita and make a run for it. Sebela's concept is certainly new and refreshing, admittedly slightly scary in the near-term possibility of such an app. The illustrations by Stein and Brandt are a good fit stylistically for the book itself. Crowded #1 is a lot of fun and a ridiculously slick read.

Crowded #1 is available now.