By: Steven Hicks
“Oblivion Song” is the newest series from writer Robert Kirkman. Kirkman is most famous for creating “The Walking Dead,” but this is a very different kind of story.
It’s clear from the opening pages that “Oblivion Song” is much more high concept, and by the end of the first volume it’s equally clear that Kirkman has a bit more of a structured plan for the narrative.
Much of the volume is spent explaining how the world of “Oblivion Song” came to be.
An event called the “Transference” caused a part of Philadelphia to be transposed into an alien world, and part of that alien world dropped into Philadelphia.
This world is the titular Oblivion, and protagonist Nathan is a scientist working to bring back the civilians who have now been trapped with the monsters of Oblivion for ten years.
However, with such a long time having passed since the Transference, many would rather pull the plug on Nathan’s operation.
For the most part, these characters would like to stop the rescues because they are, to put it simply, inconvenient.
This is a position to which the book seems oddly sympathetic. The position these characters express is essentially that it’s okay for people to keep suffering as long as nobody has to think about it.
The degree to which the reader is inclined to agree is going to have a major impact on how much they root for Nathan, who is in both attitude and action diametrically opposed to this out-of-sight, out-of-mind behavior.
Unfortunately, with so much of the volume dedicated to the admittedly strong world building, the only characters who make much of an impression are Nathan and Ed, a leader of survivors in Oblivion.
They stand out because of their distinctive attitudes toward the Transference and its aftermath.
Many of the other characters tend to blend together, none of them have very clear motives or goals, and they have about four recognizable personalities between them.
The art is simpler than might be expected of this type of setting. The creatures and environments are well designed without overloading the reader with extraneous detail.
It should also be noted that the book flows remarkably well.
Aside from one jarring and obvious end-of-issue cliffhanger, if feels like a continuous narrative, a quality that is all too rare in trade paperbacks.
This is largely down to the paneling work and the consistency of the art.
Overall, “Oblivion Song” is off to a promising start. There are a few problems, and future volumes have to make a stronger effort toward flushing out the principle cast.
However, the narrative and setting have a strong structure to work with, and Kirkman has proven time and again that he knows how to craft compelling characters given enough time.
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