"Denver" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Paperfilms
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Illustrated by Pier Brito
2014, 72 Pages
After a meteor knocks the moon off of its regular orbit, the oceans rise substantially kind of like Water World but without Kevin Costner drinking his own urine. The only dry places are those five thousand feet above what we once called the sea level. In the United States, that's Denver. That's it. Everything else is underwater. This is the world of the latest original graphic novel from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray entitled, aptly enough, Denver.
The comic's main character, Max Flynn, works as a Coast Border Guard, keeping an eye on anything coming in or out of the city. The population is strictly regulated to avoid starvation and other problems. As a result, there are issues with smuggling as there are a bunch of people out there in the water looking to get in, not to mention the gangs trying to sneak in guns and other paraphernalia. This becomes personal when a group of thugs kidnaps Max's wife Betty and blackmails him into bringing illegal items and people into Denver. Get ready for the post-apocalyptic version of Taken.
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Max gives off a very noble vibe. He's like the Ned Stark of Denver, doing what's right and always by the book. There's some pain hidden behind his gruff exterior that he's been carrying with him for years. He's finally found what can pass for happiness in a world where billions of people died and that's when the gang captures his wife. He struggles with what to do for some time. On the one hand, he has no idea what these criminals are doing to Betty, but on the other, he knows that by standing aside and letting them bring in these weapons, he's responsible for countless deaths of innocent people.
As this is a short graphic novel, Palmiotti and Gray jump right into the action. After a brief introduction to the new status quo, you see firsthand what a typical day is like as a Coast Border Guard. At only 72 pages, there are some parts of the story that feel a little rushed, especially the big fight scene at the end. Things move very quickly here, but you're never lost. There's also a strange sub-population living in Denver, infected with a virus that makes them extremely light sensitive and “ate away at the region of the brain that controls impulses.” Little else is said about this group, but it seems like there could be an entire other comic about this alone.
Pier Brito's artwork is pretty solid through Denver. He has a talent for mood, setting the tone of every scene with the very first panel. You feel the desperation of the people of Denver right away. There are a few panels where Max's daughter Trinity is remembering happier times. These stand out as a stark contrast to the rest of the graphic novel as they are bright and filled with joy.
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Occasionally the facial expressions of the characters look odd, as if their heads were made of clay and they just got mushed around a bit. A nose might appear too long or a mouth too big compared to the rest of the face.
Denver was released through Kickstarter and for an independent comic, it is made with remarkable quality. The pages are thick and sturdy, far stronger than what you'd get from any large publisher. This is the sixth project that Palmiotti and Gray have created through Kickstarter, so they know what they're doing here. Also included in this graphic novel is a sketch book from Brito and a pinup gallery featuring artwork from Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Dave Johnson, and more.
Denver is a story showing what happens when you push an honorable man too far and the lengths he'll go when you piss him off. There is definitely room for additional tales in this universe and I'd love to see Palmiotti and Gray explore them further. Denver can't be the only city above water, right?