HeroesCon 2019 REVIEW: ‘Gardener,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While at HeroesCon 2019, I had the chance to pick up Gardener #1. Written, illustrated, colored, lettered, and designed by Matt Emmons, the comic takes place in a strange and terrifying sci-fi inspired post-apocalyptic world centuries after a failed attempt at colonization. The narrative mostly follows Bug, a bizarre creature wearing a suit reminiscent of old diving suits seen in Lovecraftian horror, but later shifts to Lars, a woman shot while traveling in the desert.

When Bug stumbles upon Lars and carries her to the wall, her future becomes hazy as she finds herself in speaking with a disembodied voice. Danger lurks ahead as Lars is hired by an ancient robot – the caretaker of the titular Garden – to investigate the emergence of a strange plague that could destroy all life left on the planet.

Gardener #1 is a very unusual comic but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not particularly dialogue-heavy and instead relies on Emmons artwork to tell the majority of the story, through exposition and world-building as well as the expressive nature of the characters. The comic borrows a lot from old monster movies, like Creature from the Black Lagoon, and even Star Wars.

The color palette and character designs remind me a lot of Star Wars: A New Hope, specifically the scenes on Tatooine, but a tad more grotesque. While not outright gory, a lot of the characters’ designs feature uncomfortable or gross pieces, like Bug’s tongue. Additionally, Emmons illustrates cords and wires to look almost like intestines, making the robots in the world seem more alive and monster-like.


However, despite his tongue, Bug’s big eyes make readers more sympathetic to the monster even as he is kidnapping Lars. A key in any monster or alien movie is always the eyes. Eyes can easily make a foreign creature feel more human, as seen in Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water or Hellboy

Emmons art is truly the shining star of the issue. Everything feels alive, as all of the designs, characters and the background, resemble organ matter or tissue. The dirt Bug climbs on looks like clogged arteries. The vast tunnels Lars ends up before speaking to the ancient robot appear to be set up like veins, with endless, winding corridors that converge at a central point. The coloring of these panels are significantly different than the rest of the book as the corridors are bathed in blue light

In addition to the intrigue designs featuring in Gardener #1, the issue features some of the best and most clever lettering showing I have seen in an indie book. The opening inner monologue of Bug is characterized by words oddly spaced apart as if to show the creatures slower thinking process as he struggles to grasp upon even simple words. Additionally, the book features brilliant and clever cues within the letter that point, without directly pointing, to where voices and sounds are coming from, an artistic visual trick I wish more video games utilized. 

Overall, Gardener #1 is an interesting start to a bizarre world and story. While I would have liked a little more explanation of the characters and plot, I am still very intrigued by what is to come in future issues.

Gardener #1 is available now online.

Gardener #1
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TL;DR

Overall, Gardener #1 is an interesting start to a bizarre world and story. While I would have liked a little more explanation of the characters and plot, I am still very intrigued by what is to come in future issues.