"Carbon" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Caliber Comics
Written by Daniel Boyd
Illustrated by Edi Guedes
2012, 120 Pages
Graphic Novel released on August 27th, 2014
What if we weren't the first intelligent beings that God created? Before you burn me at the stake, give me a minute to explain. Carbon, a new graphic novel written by Daniel Boyd, takes a look at the idea that before humankind, God had created a race of animalistic creatures known as Sheves. These being proved to be too harmful to mankind and they were sent deep underground to live separated from the rest of creation. Years later a coal mining operation taps into the Sheves' lair and all Hell breaks loose.
The real story of Carbon isn't necessarily about these monsters (although they're a big part). Instead, there's a theme running through the comic dealing with the dangers of coal mining in general. Eden Energy is run by a Lex Luthor-esque CEO named Rod Dickenson, who discovers a special type of coal close to the Sheves. All of the workers that he's sent down there have disappeared. The small town of Eden Hollow, West Virginia, relies on the coal mine for employment, so no one has really noticed that a few dozen miners have vanished over the past thirty years. Now he's ready to make a final push to get this miracle element out of the ground and strike it rich, regardless of who or what he must sacrifice to do so.
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This big push coincides with Jacob “Heat” Hatfield's return to town. He's back after a failed baseball career and his father was one of those lost all those years ago. He ends up involved with this new trip down the shaft because he needs the cash, just like everyone else in Eden Hollow.
The Skeves end up imprisoning the miners as a whole. This puts the men in a very vulnerable position. They're forced to trap fish for the monsters and used as sex slaves. Some of the men have been down there for years, so it's a wonder they haven't been driven mad. It's not often that you see men in this situation either. Usually it's a female character that is the victim in these types of stories. Carbon shows coal miners – arguably the toughest guys on the planet – as utterly defenseless against these beasts.
Carbon is a rather short graphic novel, coming in at just 120 pages. It takes quite a while to get to the action with the men finally getting into the mine to discover the Skeves. Then, once they're down there, things move very quickly with the miners hatching a plan to escape and executing it. Before you know it, the monsters are on the streets, free from their prison and attacking the town and everyone in it, ready to destroy everything in their sight. As this feels a bit rushed, it's tough to care about the characters involved. Some of them are killed along the way and I couldn't tell you who they were. They serve as nothing more than cannon fodder.
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Edi Guedes' artwork brings Carbon and all of its monsters to life. His depiction of the Skeves is the stuff from nightmares. They have leathery wings, sharp claws, jagged teeth. Sores cover most of their body. They're like the unholy offspring of a vampire and a leper. While these look suitably terrifying, the humans are occasionally awkward. Facial expressions are a little off or body parts are too large.
Carbon is a comic book with a message. It shows a fictional consequence of fracking and coal mining in an effort to bring to light the true dangers to the environment and the people involved while the rich people continue to make more and more money off of it. If it wasn't for author Daniel Boyd's afterward, I don't know if I would have gotten the entire message. It can get lost in the mix of underworld monsters, religion, and coal.