REVIEW: ‘High Level,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

High Level

High Level #1 is the start of new series from DC Vertigo, written by Rob Sheridan, with art from Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo Jr. that promises a classic adventure story in its first six-issue arc. The series is a cyber-punk dystopian world hundreds of years after the world ended and was later rebuilt.

Our main character is Thirteen, a self-interested smuggler who is running from the police-like organization Black helix. As the plot of the first arc is outlined, she is forced to traverse the continent North, to High Level, the mythical city on top of the world, where people ascend and never return. But she isn’t alone, she is in charge of delivering a child messiah who is even more wanted than her.

In High Level #1, we meet our protagonist and get to see exactly what kind of person she is. She’s sarcastic irreverent and ultimately someone not looking to break out of the world she lives in, or at least on the outside. As someone who enjoys a good f-bomb but also someone who understands that cursing in books can sometimes feel forced, I have a lot of respect for Sheridan making Thirteen’s dialogue, f-bombs and all. Beyond that, the crass sense of humor is something I appreciate in female characters especially when done in a natural way.  As we get to see Thirteen interact with people in her world we greatly understand that she isn’t a loner but isn’t rushing to people’s sides either.

As much as we get a sense of who Thirteen is, we also get to know the world she inhabits. In the opening of the book, Thirteen recalls a meeting she had with a beggar heading North. In exchange for water, the man gives her the most important book in the world, or least it used to be.

The book in question is a Bible and Thirteen dismisses the quest for rules and ultimately the religion as not only a thing of the past, but something that isn’t worth dying for. This is echoed later in the issue where she can’t behind the ideas that her friend Jass has about Ascending to High Level, living for something more.

Ultimately, the world is bleak and Thirteen is in it for herself, because this may be all there is. But like Borderlands, Mad Max, and most other post-apocalyptic worlds, the issues shows a glimpse at the “superstitious bastards” that continue to roam the world.

Beyond the stellar world building through thoughts and dialogue from Sheridan, the art from Bagenda and Fajardo, with a noticeable lack of inking is breathtaking. The use of color throughout the book, foreground, middle-ground, and background is well thought out and Thirteen’s vibrant hair enhance the scenes she’s drawn into and doesn’t overpower it. In fact, the high contrast between the vibrancy of the people against the dingy wasteland and abandoned industrial areas is superb and gives the book a depth that causes you to scan every inch of the page.

Overall, High Level #1 is the perfect set up for this science fiction cyberpunk adventure and I’m hooked. I’m hooked on thirteen, the art, and the creature design of a baddie in the latter half of the comic. I am intrigued to see what other monstrous creations the team will pull into a both a beautiful and scary world. The one thing I know for sure is that this is set up to be an expansive adventure apathetic protagonist and it’s right up my ally.

High Level #1 is available in stores now.


High Level #1 
5

TL;DR

Overall, High Level #1 is the perfect set up for this science fiction cyberpunk adventure and I’m hooked. I’m hooked on thirteen, the art, and the creature design of a baddie in the latter half of the comic. I am intrigued to see what other monstrous creations the team will pull into a both a beautiful and scary world. The one thing I know for sure is that this is set up to be an expansive adventure apathetic protagonist and it’s right up my ally.