Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Matias Bergara
Colors by Matias Bergara and Michael Doig
Published by BOOM! Studios
Holy cow am I conflicted about this comic.
First and foremost I should point out that this is, without a doubt, an excellent comic book.
It is, ostensibly, a post-apocalyptic story, but the pre-apocalypse world was one of fantasy, of sword and sorcery. It was something of a fairy tale world, at least according to the narration from our main character, who’s name is certainly not Mr. Hum, but that’s what we have to work with.
It’s an extremely appealing concept, that of a magical realm after everything has gone to hell. It shifts the sense of loss. It introduces a sliding scale of reality. The world post-apocalypse is, obviously, much worse than it was before, but what if the world before was amazing? Does the extent of the fall increase the degree of suffering?
The art by Matias Bergara is the best place to start, as it’s detailed, layered, and whimsical, but not to the point where it lacks tone. This is a world of dragons and wizards and warriors, but Bergara manages to give it gravitas while still feeling magical. Hum’s steed is particularly terrifying in parts and the little girl who takes an interest in Hum is equally adorable.
There’s some Barry Windsor-Smith in Bergara’s work, and some Michael Golden, to boot. I feel like I’m missing a really obvious comparison, that it’s on the tip of my brain, but it’s escaping me. That’s probably a good thing, as it underscores that Bergara’s work isn’t derivative.
This is a world that feels lived in…and died in.
The narration is the second strongest part of this comic. Spurrier knows Hum inside and out, it seems, and his inner monologue, framed as a letter to his kidnapped wife, makes Hum appealing from the start. It helps that Hum seems to be a realist surrounded by drama students. He’s ostensibly a version of the reader trapped in the flowery world of sword and sorcery. He’s smarter than everyone else, he’s funnier than everyone else, and he has perspective.
So if this comic is so great then why am I conflicted about it? Well, two words: the ending. Two more words: The Magicians.
The final two pages offer up a nice complication, something that would seem to create a moral dilemma for Hum. In a vacuum, it’s a great moment which really builds the story for the next issue.
I understand the theory that ideas exist in their own “Idea Space,” as Alan Moore called it and those ideas are accessible to anyone at any time. This is why we so often see similar ideas released into the world at the same time.
The third season of The Magicians (a fantastic show, by the way) features a story point that is exactly like the end of Coda #1. Or, given the lead time on these things, the Coda #1 ending is exactly like the story point in the 3rd season of The Magicians.
It kicked me right out of the story.
It’s such a major plot point, too, that I’m concerned at how this is going to skew my perspective going forward.
But great writing is in the details and I feel fairly confident that Coda will tackle this story in a different way than The Magicians did. So I will tap down my conflicted feelings for a few more issues and we’ll see how this plays out.
Bottom line: Give this book a shot, particularly if you’ve never watched The Magicians.