Ether #1 (Lab Rat Comics)

Thanks to indie hits like Chunks, Cordelia Swift and Transfer, writer Matt Garvey has become one of Small Press’ most prolific talents. This week, Garvey and new artist collaborator Dizevez have released the first issue of Ether, a dark crime thriller about a dangerous new costumed vigilante out to seek justice. Could this be yet another great feather in Garvey’s ever growing cap or will this be one book which should be lost in…. well,…. the ether?

Publisher: Lab Rat Comics
Writer: Matt Garvey
Artist: Dizevez (art), Matt Garvey (Letters)
Price: £3.00 from Matt’s Big Cartel Store

After police discover a second child victim mutilated in an abandoned apartment, Ether #1 follows the eponymous hero beginning a search of the city in order to to stop a possible serial killer in their tracks. However, when encounters with the crooks and shady businessmen who inhabit the city’s shady nightlife, Ether begins to ponder if these murders are less the work of a single monster, but rather an organisation of them.

Ether is an extreme departure from Matt Garvey’s prior works, as issue one depicts a world and a story which is incredibly dark and extremely heavy in terms of both it’s character and story. The plot is engrossing and, while containing extremely dark subject matter, is handled deftly and manages to maintain a good consistent pace from start to finish, never getting dull or boring. Much like Transfer and Cordelia Swift, Ether does contain a small amount of humour, but here it’s sparser than those other books and this does work to it’s advantage as the seriousness of the tone would be undone by additional levity. Ether as a character meanwhile is both rather unsettling but terribly interesting with the visual upon introduction being unusual to the point of creepy while the broken dialogue implies a warped, disturbed person underneath. Indeed the portrayal of Ether implies inspiration of Watchmen’s Rorschach, Marvel’s Daredevil and a hint of DC’s Ragdoll. There is little wrong with the writing of this book as the story, for an introduction is top notch, pushed over the top by the truly phenomenal and unexpected twist which is offered towards the end.

However, while the writing helps create a great issue, the artwork is what helps elevate it further. Dizevez (kinda like ‘Jock’ I guess) offers up a simply gorgeous style which is so creepy and ghostly in its look it can only be seen as supernatural, which makes sense as it seems reminiscent of Clayton Crain’s work on Ghost Rider. The detail is incredibly accurate throughout with facial features, such as being able to see the veins on the bouncer’s head, almost convincing you this could be real. Dizevez’s colours also are seriously powerful stuff, such as in the alley scenes where she coats everything in neon hue to heighten the already unsettling, supernatural nature of the book. All in all, the art is fantastic with practically no flaws or problems apparent. This seems unusual as Dizevez talents are not widely known (certainly not by this reviewer) but pages like this, and in particular the haunting shower scenes toward the end, would imply that this may be about to change.

To say that Ether is a good comic could be best described as an understatement. With a terrific story and some truly astonishing art, this first issue could be the highlight of both Garvey and Dizevez’s career so far. And with that surprise twist as well as the compelling cliff hanger ending, this is a series where the next issue really can’t come soon enough.