Resonant is a fascinating story set in a post-apocalyptic world almost unrecognizable from our own caused by the inability to control our deepest darkest impulses. Unfortunately, resonance is something the book seems to be lacking in this issue. There are three subplots here, and none of them have the emotional impact that we felt back in issue #1. Despite the rather heavy-handed messages about the dangers of the island that Paxton finds himself on, there’s never really a sense of immediate peril. Even during the hyper-violent opening scene, Paxton never feels in danger. It feels more like a classic man vs. army scene in an action film where you know the protagonist is going to come out the other side. The sense of danger simply isn’t there. Nevertheless, the opening pages are brilliant thanks to Aragon’s needle-like rain texture that elevates the intensity of the brawl. Then, as soon as the rain clears, it’s as though there was never any danger at all. There is so little urgency expressed when it comes to Paxton returning to his kids, and it’s worrisome that Bec, Stef, only come up in conversation during the second scene on the island. Additionally, it feels as though there’s more emotion from the doctor than there is from Paxton. There’s some genuine worry in his words, but it comes too late in the issue.
Then there’s Ty’s scene. This congregation that gives off more of a cult energy than a church one has been portrayed in a very mixed lighting over the course of the last few issues. Ty’s recruitment and initiation was done under very dangerous pretenses, and it was strongly hinted that Isaac and his partner have some nefarious motive, but since then, the congregation has been rainbows and sunshine. There’s no lurking sense of danger during Ty’s baptism, and Sarah’s gift comes across as unsettling at best. Ty seems better off than he was at home. The emotional beats of this issue continue to be confusing at every turn. How are we supposed to feel about the Congregation? I’m not sure the creative team even knows the answer to that question.
Finally there’s Bec and Stef dealing with… a bear? It just does not seem to be on the same order of magnitude as what the other two members of the family are dealing with. A bear is natural, and while dangerous, doesn’t really pose a possible murderous intent like the other two situations. As a whole, the sense of danger is on and off throughout all three scenes and the entire issue as a whole. It’s hard to know for sure how the issue ended up as it did, but going back to Resonant #1, I think this book is currently suffering from an identity issue. This book doesn’t seem to know what it is, and I’m starting to question if it ever did.
When the book was announced, it was pitched as a reality where waves would cause people to cede control to their darkest impulses. It was a captivating idea, but one that rarely, if ever, surfaces. Impulses are sudden and without warning, but they are also incredibly specific, and that is not what we’ve gotten here. The only reference to a specific dark impulse came in either Resonant #1 or #2 when Bec thought about her arms without skin. Other than that, these waves have caused nothing but general depravity and violence. Nevertheless, the book still showed promise and the idea that it could be something more. It then became centered around ideas about maintaining control through adversity. It became about our coping mechanisms when we feel pain or loss, but that isn’t emphasized in Resonant #5 either. Resonant #5 lacks the ever-present sense of urgency necessary in survival horror and instead relies on uneven pacing through confusing situations that present little immediate danger.
A fellow critic recently pointed out that we should always be asking the question, “Why does this need to be told as a comic?” When I ask that question about Resonant, unfortunately, I have no clear answer. With Resonant #5 the story has become a much more generic survival horror story that could be seen playing out in any medium with little change in impact. The layouts used to vary between wide and cinematic nature scenes and smaller, intimate, and family-oriented panels, but now that the family has been separated for quite some time, the more intimate panels have given way to more traditional layouts that don’t do any favors for the narrative. I think the entire team’s work has suffered from this loss of identity, not just the plotting or writing. While Aragon continues to bring a masterclass in texture to every issue, the textures aren’t as prevalent or varied in Resonant #5. In some ways, it feels like someone took Aragon’s work from #1 and applied some sort of “smoothing texture” over every page that barely changed anything visually but made things feel more two-dimensional. Wordie’s colors are still impeccable, but feel like their only purpose is to change the palette in order to separate each scene. There’s no mood implied by the gorgeous indigo and purple sunset as Paxton tries to figure out how to get home. There isn’t really a sense of joy created when there are clear blue skies either. Wordie’s colors used to be what conveyed a sense of danger, but they don’t appear to do that anymore. Even Bennett’s lettering has taken a step down from the incessant chirping that filled entire pages of Resonant #1.
Resonant #5 is a clear indication that the book has lost its way. It has turned from a book with an intriguing premise into one that has forgotten its own message. Hopefully the creators are able to return the series to glory and rediscover their purposes, whether it be our darkest impulses, how we cope through pain, or something entirely different.
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