Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Kyle Strahm
Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro
Published by Image
All comic writers are only as good as the artists they’re working with, but Justin Jordan has a knack for finding artists that are eerily well-suited to maximizing his concepts. That was immediately clear with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode and Tradd Moore, an artist that turned Jordan’s story of a Charles Atlas-style exercise regimen and some good ol’ fashioned hyper violence into a thing of singular beauty. Jordan’s new title Spread debuted this week and already seems poised to turn artist Kyle Strahm into the next Jordan collaborator to go big.
Strahm has done fill-in issues and pin-ups for series at Boom! and Dark Horse and beyond but Spread is his major breakthrough. Jordan’s story is a mash-up of Mad Max, The Thing and Lone Wolf and Cub, where a freak infection called “The Spread” appears to have humanity on the run, while leather suited raiders run around pillaging the remains. The very first panel is full of “The Spread,” a grotesque expanse of bloody protrusions and gnawing mouths spread out over the tundra, filling every inch of horizon with a near infinite variation of reds and whites courtesy of colorist Felipe Sobreiro. Strahm’s art has some Tony Moore influence to it, giving this first glimpse at “The Spread” the feel of Moore’s Fear Agent work, but he thankfully lacks Moore’s weakness with character design. The introduction of Spread’s protagonist No is proof positive of this; the cover makes it clear that No is enough of a badass to dual wield hand axes while holding a baby (more on that in a moment), but his first action in the issue is to tearfully lean over a dead friend who looks like a golden locked, road warrior St. Sebastian. Of course it’s less than a page before No is forced into action against a Spread-infected corpse with a walrus moustache, which is where Strahm’s other major strength comes in.
Jordan’s Strode books are basically defined by the insane fight choreography of Tradd Moore, which left Strahm with some very big shoes to fill. But Strahm more than rises to the occasion, and every battle scene in Spread hits with maximum explosive potential. Strahm and Sobreiro are the definition of a symbiotic art team, as Sobreiro fills the “body” of the spread with red and gray gradients that turn that frequently terrible effect into an intriguing method for conveying the throbbing circular system of the spread, standing in clear juxtaposition to the stark white backgrounds and jagged fang-like protrusions jutting out of the Spread. Sobreiro’s coloring goes a long ways towards giving the Spread some organic definition, allowing Strahm to focus more on the figures that are either victims to it or who are currently trying not to be victimized by it.
Of the survivors, No is obviously the most interesting, looking like Wolverine cosplaying as Kurt Russell in The Thing. Spread’s hook is that No, our quiet, introspective hero, has wandered into a plane wreck where the survivors have all been picked off by the Spread or raiders except for a baby girl, who a la Saga also happens to be narrating the story and is important enough that an entire plane of people died to protect her. Strahm gives the raiders themselves a pretty classic post-apocalyptic feel, but their features are almost reptilian, and a last minute reveal of a figure who appears to be the main villain is even creepier. The backmatter makes it clear that Spread grew out of a few different ideas, but the end product couldn’t be more perfectly suited for Strahm and it’s his work that elevates it above the level of just another post-apocalyptic story.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover