THE REALM #1

Writer: Seth M. Peck
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

I, like many of you fine, sexy, lusty (?) folks, do the comic book thing as not only an escape from reality but a means to find interesting parallels in the fantastical planes they tend to inhabit, or the at least just more extravagant/advanced versions of our own. Unfortunately, way of the world these days, when something like THE REALM hits and presents a world that is essentially the post-apocalypse but as ruled by orcs, goblins, and who knows what other vile creatures, that basically just reads like your basic White House press conference and destroys that whole idea of “escapism.” Yes, I decided to spend half this intro making that joke/commentary. No, I’m not really sure where to go from there, but I have done this a bunch and it was worth it just to break up the monotony of how these things usually flow. Yes, you should try out THE REALM and I’ll tell you why in just three clicks of the ‘Return’ key from now.

As I said briefly before, THE REALM is a post-apocalypse title a little bit on the twisted side, though the extent and background of which is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. We do know that our protagonist (for now at least), Will Nolan, is a man who has seen his fair share of action even before the Earth became a Dungeons and Dragons game run amok and now is as transformed a person as one can be, literally and figuratively, ever since whatever caused the current state of things to come into being. That “whatever” is actually what makes this debut for THE REALM intriguing, because the creative team of Peck and Haun (with industry stalwarts Nick Filardi and Thomas Mauer on colors and letters respectively) accomplish a lot in world building but without any real heavy-handed storytelling. We know that whatever weird dimensional merging or magical spell casting that made the Earth into Middle-Earth with guns and F-bombs left it a world of cutthroat, scattered fiefdoms because we’re introduced to Nolan as he’s running a delivery mission for the King of one of them. We also know that Nolan is as capable as he is because we see him in a pre-fuckey world photo decked out head to toe in military-grade equipment. And on it goes as one of the things this debut excels at is just showing the tips of many plot icebergs that I assume can flourish now that most of humanity is dead and not pumping CO2 into the air like a trucker does quarters at a truck stop peep show.

Everything this premiere accomplishes does so simply because all those potential Titanic sinkers represent something interesting. Nolan on his face looks like your standard, capable lead in a world gone flip turned upside down but he’s got some funkiness about with the magic that has pervaded the realm. And we get all sorts of interludes that look promising, or mostly just badass, because they all feature badasses beyond just Nolan’s capable hands. There’s a Viking looking badass guy, there’s a tandem of badasses who are looking to start “questing” with Nolan due to his rep for moving people, and then there’s Nolan’s badass silent partner, Rook, who just drops in to look cool. Peck and Haun may have created this book to be D&D meets the real world but they also remember that the emphasis in D&D are the badass characters, not the damn mailman, but we get enough of a hint that the adventure Nolan is about to embark on will show not all is lost to the fantastical given what his employers have in tow. And this journey into Tolkien Town wouldn’t be complete without some ominous, Glen Danzig in his prime looking motherfucker doing your usual ritual sacrifice and giving us at least an idea of the dark forces at work here in THE REALM. But like all those other little pieces and people I just talked up, we’re still at the very surface of everything and you can just tell Peck and Haun are doing more than just crossing off their Fantasy trope BINGO cards.

This book just works and does work though. THE REALM emphasizes presentation in its debut and it pays immediate dividends. Jeremy Haun’s artwork looks instantly draws you in with its overwhelming detail and style and gets you at least intrigued with the characters as they run around doing dope stuff. That the book promises to have these characters do even doper stuff in the future and to start unraveling a plot beyond your typical post-apocalyptic means is where hope springs eternal for the reader while hope is getting its head lopped off by any number of those aforementioned characters and evil beings in the book itself. The only real downside to this issue is that it is fair to say that we are still very much early on and just looking at those proverbial tips assuming there’s much more below the surface and it all could be as nonexistent as polar bears will be in the next decade because a BP exec needs a third yacht, but you just have a feeling from the execution of this issue and how it gives you just the right teases in all the right places that Peck and Haun know what we want. They’re Pennywise the Clown and I’m climbing down into that into that sewer drain and not expecting to try and escape.