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‘High Level #1’ (review)

Written by Rob Sheridan
Illustrated by Romulo Fajardo Jr., 
and Barnaby Bagenda
Published by Vertigo Comics


Rob Sheridan is famous for his work with Nine Inch Nails and his frequent collaborations with Trent Reznor including the 2007 innovative NIN alternative-reality game Year Zero.

Sometimes Vertigo really hits the nail on the head and here we have an apocalyptic cyber-punk story being told by someone who’s glitch video art defined the NIN live show experience for millions of fans in concert, on screen and in VR space.

Sheridan is certainly qualified to expand the vision with Vertigo in 2019 as an exquisite graphic and visual designer that has had his eye on the dystopian future for years now.

High Level tells the tale of cyber-punk Thirteen, a bounty hunter, freelance adventurer that hangs in shitty bars after getting off of her day job as a sewage ‘administrator’. She lives on the ground level of this planet. Is it Earth? Maybe, but hundreds of years from now after “the thing” happens.

The titular High Level is a city in the sky where the fanatical religious slave away but are offered nicer conditions. At least that’s what we get here in issue #1, I have a feeling more is to be said upon ascension to this higher level.

For comparisons or simply for context, you get a lot of Ready Player One, Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled, Brazil, Blade Runner and The Fifth Element vibes from the comic, but there is also an element of Saga and Star Wars and this is just issue #1, forks! Thirteen is a fun character to watch and see what trouble and adventures she gets into.

Beautiful painted illustrations from the artists Romulo Fajardo Jr., Barnaby Bagenda with lots of neon brighten up the dark edges of the lower city, but this is a lived-in city that Spider Jerusalem would feel at home in.

Vertigo’s current slate of The Sandman Universe comics, and others that include American Carnage and Hex Wives really needs this book to round out the catalog in my opinion. Transmetropolitan associations aside, this is the first book I’m reading that really fits in with what the imprint stands for, in my mind at least. Great storytelling, some cuss words and a future adventure story that I want to read more of. I wasn’t totally sold on continuing until the last page reveal that really hooked me into wanting to know more about this world and Thirteen and her Scooby gang that I feel assembling around her.

I’ll be looking forward to reading more and wondering what influence Rob has on the look of the book itself. Overall, this writer may not have experience writing comics that I am aware of, but doesn’t seem like the kind of artist that takes on something that he’s not confident in releasing as a fully formed idea. Welcome to comics, Mr. Rob Sheridan!





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