Writer: Curt Pires
Artist: Jason Copland
Publisher: Dark Horse
Ominous futures in comic books can take many shapes. In the first issue of The Tomorrows, that future is one in which corporate abuses and governmental corruption have converged even more than they are now. As it opens, Zoey, an artist at work illegally in a dystopian, fascist state, is rescued by a member of a group involved with resisting this totalitarian tide. The group’s computer is named Warhol, which has a digital floating-head avatar to match. And one character introduces himself with a very specific set of references: “I am Toshiro Mifune having sex with David Bowie. I am death in a denim jacket. I am your best friend.”
That tendency towards stylization in the dialogue can sometimes feel stilted. At one point, the book’s antagonist declares, “I am a thirty-three-year-old man with all the money in the world, a voracious drug habit, and chronic masturbatory issues.” It’s certainly a solid list of traits for an antagonist to have. At the same time, unless Pires is setting him up as a character who declaims inappropriate monologues at various points, it feels a little rote. And if it’s meant as self-parody, a technique that writers like Grant Morrison and Matt Fraction have made use of, it doesn’t quite go far enough.
There are certainly aspects of this issue that evoke other works featuring young, stylish, culture-obsessed resistance fighters staring down sinister fascists. Or, to go the shorthand route: there’s a whole lot of Morrison’s The Invisibles in the DNA of The Tomorrows, along with more than a few aspects reminiscent of Ed Brubaker and Warren Pleece’s sorely missed dystopian moped saga Deadenders. And maybe there’s just a bit of Jonathan Hickman-style text art in there as well: the first page reads, “Reality dead/ Time broken/ Warn everyone/ Only/ Tomorrows can.”
Pires does a solid job of establishing the history of the group in which Zoey finds herself entangled. And a surreal journey that she takes on her first night in their headquarters is the issue’s highlight. It both ventures into unfamiliar territory and does so uniquely, through a surreal barrage of images, philosophical dialogue, and flashes of memory. There’s also terrific use of one character sporting an incongruous diamond mask-the affectation of pulp-hero garb is one of the nicer touches here.
While the storyline can feel familiar in places, Copland’s artwork is anything but: one page dedicated to the descent into, and layout of, The Tomorrows’ headquarters blends John Paul Leon’s dense linework with Jamie McKelvie’s spatial awareness. Some of the character designs are terrific: a series of totalitarian robots with grinning faces and grappling arms look ominously retrofuturistic: Otto Octavius guest-starring as a playing card soldier in Alice in Wonderland.
In some ways, the first issue of The Tomorrows reads like the final issue of its predecessor: Pires and Copland establish a status quo, and then just as quickly demolish it. Perhaps that means that the second issue will venture into less-populated areas of this style; perhaps it also means that the surrealistic and dream-like aspects of the story will take center stage. The groundwork has certainly been laid for an intriguing series to follow; whether the book opts for that or stays in more familiar territory remains to be seen.