Threads in the Tapestry: A Review of ‘Lives’ from First Comics

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lives_coverTitle: Lives

Publisher: First Comics

Year: 2013

Writer: Glenn Farrington

Artists: Matt and Shawn Fillbach

Pages: 22

Format: Softcover 9″ x 13″

Retail Price: $6.99 (Available at fine comic shops everywhere)

I’ll preface this review by mentioning I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting both Matt and Shawn Fillbach at C2E2 as well as SDCC and kicked it having a few beers. I have to say the brothers are two of my favorite people I’ve had the chance to get to know in the comic industry. All that said, visitors already know I put my friendships aside in order to provide my honest opinions here in the reviews and it’s not unusual for me to be less than enthusiast about games, comics, or just about anything else which my pals have invested a lot of time and energy into.

Happily I can say I have no concerns with the Fillbachs’ being irked with this review since their newest project is a comic which any fan of the genre as more than a place for spandex wearing supers doing battle needs to add to their collect. As I’ve mentioned previously the comic book form (or graphic novel if you prefer) can be a powerful engine for memorable storytelling and many of new favorite titles have nary a superhero in sight.

Written by Glenn Farrington, with art provided by Matt and Shawn, Lives made its debut at this past Comic Con International and when I finally tracked down First Comics – the company was included in the program as Warp Comics –  and after my hellos Shawn told me I had to read their new book. Since Lives clocks in at twenty two pages I knew that I could read through the title right there at the First booth and finding dialogue doesn’t appear until page eighteen made the task one easily accomplished.

Lives PageLives is the tale of a short span of a few hours involving seven people, seemingly with nothing in common, beginning with their work day morning routines. Each of these men and women are leading varied lives. From the obvious alcoholic doing her best to steel herself for the day ahead to the seemingly depressed man eyeing a revolver to the rich businessman being served by a butler, we aren’t immediately sure what connection they share. We eventually learn they all work (or did work) in the same office.

Farrington sets the story up nicely, even without dialogue, and the Fillbachs are known for strong use of shadow (almost a cubist style) and their style is a perfect fit for Lives. The layout style is interesting as, at the beginning of the book each character’s vignette reads across the full span of both pages along the horizontal rows. As the story continues each character receives their own full page to move the narrative and, finally in the last few pages, the characters come together in traditional comic book panels.  The artists also include plenty of visual clues so an observant reader understands what’s taking place all along.

I will mention I tend to be a fairly slow comic reader in the first place, as I linger on a page, so I had a feeling I knew where the story was going with about four or five pages remaining. Even though I had a feeling of what the conclusion might be that didn’t take anything away from the emotional impact of the final splash page.

I won’t spoil the story by giving away the finale but suffice to say different readers will no doubt walk away from Lives with differing conclusions of the tale’s overall meaning. I’ll guess many readers will easily identify with one of more of the seven characters which adds even more impact to the conclusion.

I really think Lives is a great book and certainly deserves a spot in nearly every comic reader’s collection. Granted it’s not for the folks who only collect superhero books and some may gripe a bit over the price since the oversized book is only twenty two pages but I believe once again First Comics proves to be the home of titles deserving of publication which might not see the light of day at larger companies.

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