THE NORMALS #4
The reality of a completely new life hits the family hard in THE NORMALS #4 from Aftershock Comics. Writer Adam Glass has taken the average suburban American family and thrown them into the meat grinder of a huge corporate conspiracy. The best part of this book is not that they rise to the challenge, but how expertly they fail in their new roles as criminals on the run. Jack has a mission and the means to “wake up” the rest of the automatons the Westin Corporation has placed around the country in their experiment, the only problem is he has no idea how to do it and no experience with living on the wrong side of the law. To make matters worse his wife no longer remembers him and his children are barely coping with the fact that their entire existence is a lie. From knocking out rodeo clowns to selling stolen cars Jack is in way over his head but they cannot hesitate for every second they waste the Westin group is slowing catching up. Not only that, but Jack and his family are in an even larger race to free the rest of their kind less the company get to them first.
Every day boring people thrust into extraordinary situations makes for good stories. Jack and his family might not technically be so normal but the life they thought they were living was and now they must learn what it means to be different and to be hunted. Adam Glass really focuses on Jack as a father and a husband who is completely and utterly over matched by the weight that has been thrust upon him. He is not Liam Neeson and he has no set of particular skills to help him get through his mess. Instead he fumbles through this entire issue but we as the reader are rooting for him against all odds none the less. This book keeps readers on it toes by introducing these random elements to the story that seem to come out of nowhere but help propel the narrative along. The clown in the bathroom that results in a stolen car, the threat of calling the police when Jack attempts to sell said car, and the benevolent stranger who bails the family out at the last minute allowing them to continue on their journey. It is this mix of the, no pun intended, normal and the surreal that makes this title so interesting. There is really no clue as to what will happen next and that lingering question drives right into the next issue.
Pencils from Dennis Calero can be really hit and miss. In particular the faces of the characters are often obscured by shadow and black. I can not tell if it is for dramatic effect or a coloring issue. If the purpose is to put forth the idea that each character is hiding something from those closest to them then I think that is a really interesting artistic choice but it still can make some of the characters had to follow. It also can effect the panel to panel movement of the plot but any faults in the art are more than made up for in the narrative. I hope more readers begin to pick up some of these Aftershock titles because the stories they are telling are intriguing and new. THE NORMALS #4 is a very good read and I would advise any new readers who want to check it out to pick up issues #1-#4 and start at the beginning. It is a story on a smaller scale about some not so real people in a very real situation.