Just stop a moment before reading on. Go look at that cover some more. Gorgeous isn’t it? Front and back cover a singular image, the sweep of art perfectly describing so many of the events within. Take it all in, for as good as the cover is…. inside is better.
Most attempts I make to follow new titles from the US are stymied by the burgeoning UK comic scene of the moment, anything US that takes my fancy tends to go on a “when I get the time” list. Problem is, I never get the time, too much stellar UK stuff going on, too many fabulous comics to look at from these shores. There are many, many sites covering the US comics world, we pride ourselves on covering the UK comics world better than anyone. (And yes, we’d love anyone with other passions, superhero specific, Manga, nostalgia, anything really, to get in touch and write for us).
However Genesis is an exception, being not only an intriguing story, this done in one full colour 64-page graphic novella sized special from Image, but especially interesting to me as it marks the first US comics work from Alison Sampson, whose work I’d been following for several years after first seeing her art showcase site Space In Text that really demonstrated what a fine artistic eye she had. Following this, I kept noticing more and more of her own work, before really being impressed with her small piece in issue 4 of Solipsistic Pop, the MAPS issue, wherein Sampson documented her personal space, with a beautiful level of obsessive detail in four pages that was simply exceptional….
(Alison Sampson, Small World, Solipsistic Pop Issue 4)
So, when word of Genesis came through, I was determined to cover it. Ideally before it hit the shelves. I didn’t quite make it. It’s hopefully available right now in your local comic shop, and may I suggest that if you can’t find it on the shelves, you ask the manager why it isn’t there?
Genesis starts with an idea, a question…
If you had the power to change the world, to really change the world, to become as God, what would you do? What extremes would you go to? What price would you be willing to pay?
Meet Adam. He’s a preacher.
And he’s paying that price….
For Adam the idea of wanting to change the world has always been with him, his entire life had pointed to his calling, from childhood he had a sense that he could be a catalyst for change in the world. But imagine the despair this man of the cloth feels as he grows older and comes to the same realisation that we all must, that his existence is no more special, no more capable of changing the world than any of us. We simply have to accept this and move on, grow old, and eventually die. Adam is different. Something extraordinary is going to happen, something life changing, but what impact will this miraculous gift have on this man’s life?
In some comics the events I’ve just described could fill twenty or more pages. In Genesis we’ve just covered the first two pages. Yep, TWO. There’s another 49 story pages to go. Just imagine where Edmondson and Sampson can take things with that. Both premise and promise of Genesis is huge, and it’s something that Edmonson and Sampson are instrumental in delivering.
In terms of the story, we follow preacher Adam in this modern parable, the pressure of expectation all too much, the realisation that he’s not going to change the world weighing too heavy upon his shoulders, the end result of this an action that cuts across the very heart of Adam’s beliefs, something I’ll not spoil here, but suffice it to say there’s no action that could be considered a more damning condemnation of faith.
In the aftermath of this terrible admission of defeat, Adam wakes with power on a truly biblical scale, a reality shaping, world changing ability, the miraculous ability to manifest any thought into reality.
A man with the power of a God. It’s never going to work…
What follows is Adam’s ascension to Godhead, complete with the realisation that man is simply not meant to wield such unimaginable power, there’s simply too much that can, and will, go terribly wrong. Poor, doomed Adam. He never stood a chance. Neither did the world.
On a basic level what we have with Genesis is a modern fable, a lesson in the ultimate folly of wielding power, and the resultant fallout that results.
That power is represented so cleverly throughout Edmondson’s story, with Adam’s inevitable descent marked in so many little ways, never more so simply than his subconscious mind slipping, control lost for a split second, and his wife suddenly switching from brunette to blonde. Such a small thing in the grand, world changing, feed and cloth the poor scheme of things, but so personal, so indicative of the bigger picture, simple and clever….
The horror following this small, inconsequential moment is profound, far-reaching, and intensely personal. It’s this pivotal moment that informs everything that follows, with Edmondson and Sampson working together to document Adam’s subsequent loss of control, the breakdown of control, the world, reality, everything breaking down, just as you might expect. After this we follow Adam as he wanders his world, questioning his reality, along with a couple of fellow travellors, of whom you can affix your own interpretation, as I’m sure that’s what Edmondson and Sampson have in mind. One thing is for sure, Genesis is a very special comic.
And a big part of what makes it special is down to the artistic input of Sampson. Throughout Genesis it’s worth reminding yourself that this is her first full length comic work, the first time she’s ventured beyond a couple of pages of sequential art. That fact in and of itself is breath-taking. There’s elements of photo-realism here, but also chaotic ‘scribbled’ lines forming fluid shapes. The need on the artist’s part to match the reach of the idea of God at play on Earth means there’s few pages where Sampson’s vision isn’t essential to the comic and she pretty much excels throughout. Where she needs to capture the mundanity of this modern-day God she does so, when she needs to illustrate the profound ‘trippiness’ of the ideas we’re playing with she does so.
How many different ways can an artist realistically depict a universe unravelled and reassembled? Sampson will confound your answer. It’s on practically every page once the madness starts. The book may start with a simple, ordered panel structure, but this soon begins to break down, absolutely reflecting the reality of Adam’s situation and indeed, the reality of reality as he sees it, as he creates, uncreates, recreates it… is it any wonder the pages are a visual riot?
However, there’s a big difference between visually riotous and confusing, and at no point does the storytelling become lost, at no point is the message lost, at no point did I question what I saw on the page. Sampson delivers the insanity of a God undone page after page, breaks reality to pieces and builds it back wrong, but her creation of a creation gone wrong is anything but.
Genesis is on release right now. You can, you should, seek it out in any comic shop.