The Ferryman (Issue 01)
Story by: Sean Campbell
Story Artist: Dennis Tirona
Cover by: Jonathan Moore
The Ferryman is one of several crowd funded comics that appeared roughly around the same take as Richard C. Meyer's Jawbreaks and Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog. It is also one of the first (if not THE first) crowd funded comics to be fulfilled and shipped to its backers. And not to bury the lead, but this comic is quite excellent.
The story in brief is this (some spoilers here):
In a future, very near to our own, we are introduced to a seemingly ordinary man named William Tanner. He is on the fence on whether or not to buy an implant that will create a digital copy of himself. The saleswoman explains that when he dies the digital copy will be uploaded to a cloud service called Glory. Tanner is a little hesitant at first, specifically balking at the price. But, the saleswoman persuades him that the process works wonders, and that he will spend an eternity being the man he wants to be. Reassured, Tanner gets the implant, and then goes home, and commits suicide.
This is a nice opening teaser to the main story, and the premise is very similar to the Black Mirror episode San Junipero. San Junipero used the premise to tell a sentimental love story. The Ferryman, on the other hand, takes that premise and make it more down to earth. In this world, opting into the Glory service is akin to plastic surgery, which makes it a more little relatable.
However, what is missing in both that Black Mirror episode and The Ferryman is the religious angle. Essentially by using this technology, you are kind of giving both God and the Devil the middle finger, which is something I think could be explored a little further.
Back to the story, soon after Tanner commits suicide, Miles Armstrong is dispatched by the Glory company to extract the digital copy from the dead man. You get the impression that Miles has been at this job way too long, and is now simply going through the motions. He is briefly hassled by a Detective at the crime scene. The Detective tells him Miles that what Glory is doing is wrong. Miles shrugs it off.
Meanwhile, reporter Tara Mitnic, and her bodyguard meet with rogue general Amar Ahmadi. The General has quite the fearsome reputation, and is currently leading an underground resistance movement against the Glory technology. The General has good reason, as we learn that the Glory technology is based on a military training simulator that ended up having horrific side effects for it's users. The General lets it drop that those who use the Glory implants are coming back to life. Before, he can tell the reporter more, the General and his group are ambushed by an assassin. The General manages to hold his ground, while the reporter and her bodyguard make their escape.
At about the same, Miles has taken a break to visit his brother and his niece. Miles comes baring gifts, and gives his niece a Battle Buddy, a teddy bear that is also an attack robot (and who I hope will show up in future issues, because Battle Buddy is awesome). We are treated to nice twist here, as we find out that Miles is actually visiting his family in the Glory digital world. Miles is called away from his break, and as it turns out he has a long night ahead of him, as the number of suicides and murders begin to increase.
I'm going to stop here, as I don't want to give too much away. But, for the observant, there is also a neat twist at the end of the story that you might miss if you weren't paying attention to the beginning.
Overall, I found The Ferryman to be an engaging read. Since the story is set in the near future, the world we're introduced to isn't too far fetched. The art, by Dennis Tirona, is a sort of a faux manga style, but is realistic enough that it doesn't pull you out of the story. Speaking of the art, I feel compelled to mention, the pinups posters sprinkled throughout the story (drawn by guest artists Troy Torres, Luidi Teruel, Timothy Lim, and Aliza Forrest). This is some nice world building, and it reminds me of something that Paul Verhoeven would do in his movies (the commercials that run throughout the original Robocop come to mind).
On the negative side, I only have a few minor quibbles. I think I would have cut out the magazine article that gives us the General's backstory with the Glory program. We already get enough info about the General in the conservation between the reporter and her bodyguard, and the magazine article interrupts the flow of the story. Instead, I would have used that space to have an obituary for Miles brother and niece. That would have made things a little more clear that Miles was visiting his family in the virtual world of Glory. I also have mixed feeling about the opening page that introduces the main characters, and their backstories. This page is nice, but I'm not sure it's needed especially for Miles. Campbell does a good job introducing the characters, and showing that Miles is essentially disconnected from the world around him. But again, these are minor criticism at best.
If I had one major criticism it would be this: this is is issue 1 of an ongoing series, but it is also a crowd funded comic. Please, understand this criticism isn't necessarily directed at Campbell and Co specifically, but more at crowd funding comics in general. Not to rain on anyone's parade, but my concern is what if you're not able to get enough funding for issue 2 or issue 3, and your story remains incomplete. That could get frustrating for readers who have been following along issue to issue, and might make them less willing to back you in future crowd funding endeavors. I think a better approach to these crowd funding comics would be to adopt a more European model. Instead of having a 30 page comic book, have a 60 to 80 page comic book album. Look at something like Tintin. In each volume of Tintin you get a complete story, but elements and characters carry over in subsequent albums. Adding another 30 or 50 pages to the Ferryman to finish the story might have been a better approach, here. Then in the next volume maybe focus on the General character (where you can include that magazine article). It's sort of like baking a cake, you're adding layers to your story with each subsequent volume.
Those criticisms aside, The Ferryman is an excellent read. Not only that, but this is the kind of story that rewards you after a second or third reading. There are some nice little details that are easily missed on a first read through. Good effort by all, and I'm definitely looking forward to issue 2.
Hello, my name is
Kelly Logue, and I'm a writer who lives in Alaska. Generally, I write horror or weird fiction, but I am currently working on a superhero title that should be out next year. In addition to this blog, you can follow my adventures on Twitter @KellyLogue3