Review of Material #1

Material 1by Ales Kot & Will Tempest

In it’s debut, Material feels like writer Ales Kot’s most ambitious and complicated work in a short career that’s been defined by ambitious and complicated work. This is a writer that’s made the final arc of his cyber punk government assassin saga about William S Boroughs and turned a Bucky Barnes ongoing into a galactic Moebius riff on love, but perhaps most surprisingly, is how ordinary Material’s setting is. Almost nothing about Material crosses over into the fantastical, the closest it get’s to science fiction comes from a sentiment AI, which really isn’t that far from reality anyway. But that’s also what gives the book it’s strength, it’s finding the wonder in the everyday occurrences the way Terrence Mallick’s most recent films have that gives the book it’s resonance. Unlike Mallick, Material has a lazar like focus on it’s expansive cast and in a few pages, it gives forth a rich character study on several different people from varying walks of life, all with a uniquely personal struggle. Those personal struggles are used touch on hyper modern and of the moment concerns; things like police brutality against African Americans, PTSD from America’s extended foreign war time activity, gender politics within the entertainment industry; it’s all given an insightful and full examination in a small economy of pages and it’s the smart character work that makes those story resonate. Kot has this incredible trick in Material where he makes big ideas feel personal by putting the reader in the place of the character, in effect allowing us to view our own world through fresh eyes. Artist Will Tempest, who previously worked with Kot on issue #5 of Zero, has a strong illustrative presence that feels like Dan Clowes/Harvey Peker and helps center the books experience and establish it’s mood by using a shifting color palette that does well in accentuating the character studies and the relationship they have to their environment.  All of this makes for a impressive debut. While the complicated low stakes is not be for everybody, the subtlety with which it explores the splendor of the mundane is a welcome reprise where Kot explores many of the same themes that permeate his prior work, but does so in a way he’s never done before.

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