High Level #2 is published DC Vertigo, written by Rob Sheridan, with art from Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo Jr. The series follows Thirteen, a thief and Onida resident, as she is swept in to bring peace to her post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk world. We last left off with Thirteen’s old friend Akan rescuing her and asking her to shepherd a young girl, who is the property of Black Helix, to High Level, the place in the sky that people ascend to; a city set apart from the rest of the world.
In High Level #2 we pick up with Akan attempting to persuade Thirteen to take the girl to High Level, to return Minnow back home. He tries to use their relationship for leverage and when that doesn’t work, he appeals to her sense of survival with money. Offered enough money to not deal with the mess of performing odd jobs and thievery, Thirteen reluctantly accepts. The first half of the issue is on the slower-side of things.
Instead of showing the seedy Onida underbelly, the issue takes its time to develop a connection between its two main characters. Thirteen and Minnow don’t get along at first, the former is annoyed and the latter just wants to go home. Sheridan’s dialogue in the issue does well to build a bridge between the two characters as well as give context to the world around them. And it is clear, Minnow is a child. Her sense of amusement and ignorance is well played against Thirteen’s cynical demeanor.
Then, there is the strongest part of the series so far, the art. Bagenda and Fajardo’s artwork is soft and striking. With no inking, the paintings on the page are soft when needed but can also be sharp and dynamic in the back half of the comic that houses all of the action. The art gives the story a sense of wonder, while the illustrations of this cyberpunk world are clear, the colors, blending, and white highlights make this issue a beautiful and fanciful piece of art.
From the amusement park setting, marionettes, and even the fire brought by Black Helix is perfection. The art in this series is unmatched in beauty and depth. I would say it carries it, but Sheridan’s writing style does work too. As a whole the series feels like one piece, working in unison, with both the art and words in the panels crafting a new post-apocalyptic world for us to get swept up in.
In High Level #2 there is less of Thirteen’s Tankgirl adjacent personality, but instead, it is used sparingly to voice her frustration in situations. Because of this, it improves on the slight issue that I had in number one and Thirteen feels more real and less like a caricature of what men think tough women act like – a slight trope Sheridan was brushing against last issue. With Black Helix breathing down there necks, I can’t wait to see the walking adventure of our two characters and their interactions. I highly recommend High Level #2, as it continues to round out a strong line-up from DC Vertigo.
High Level #2
With Black Helix breathing down there necks, I can’t wait to see the walking adventure of our two characters and their interactions. I highly recommend High Level #2, as it continues to round out a strong line-up from DC Vertigo.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.