Disaster Inc. #1 can best be likened to the opening 15-20 minutes of a horror film. Tropes galore, but they are a necessary evil to establish the story, the characters that encompass said story, and the world that fosters the narrative at hand. Despite the stereotypical setup, there is enough foreshadowing and literary breadcrumbs to entice readers with a penchant for horror and mystery to remain with the series. In spite of the clichés the issue introduces, I have hopes that subsequent issues will delve deeper into the mystery of Fukushima and its nuclear wasteland in a far more engrossing manner.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Joe Harris explains the story:
The story follows a group of disaster tourists who charter this underground organization to guide them inside the Japanese no-man’s land known as the ‘Exclusion Zone’ surrounding the site of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown,” Harris says. “They quickly learn there’s more to worry about than radioactive fallout, or just getting busted, when they find themselves both hunted and haunted by the ghosts of those same warriors who protected this land from invaders for almost a thousand years: the Samurai.
Harris paints an interesting scenario when describing the series, and a sense of intrigue and mystery is without a doubt infused into the issue, but it does so at a snail’s pace. For everything two things Harris gets right, there is some odd thing that counteracts it.
The first issue of any series can prove to be a daunting task. In the case of Disaster Inc. #1, the opening scene is perfect, paying homage to classic horror films while simultaneously incentivizing audiences to continue reading. We are introduced to the Fukushima site as two scientists are studying butterflies within the “exclusion zone.” Any horror fan of note knows things quickly sour, and we get a glimpse (never a full reveal this early) of the horrors the Fukushima disaster holds. It’s a promising start.
Then, however, the issue toes the line of heavy exposition. We see this world through the lens of Abby, a young woman working for the titular Disaster Inc. She quickly runs down the scenario to her haphazard boss and company owner, Paolo. Paolo failed to read the briefing, thereby providing all the reasons Abby needs to spew knowledge both characters should have been familiar with in the first place, all the while informing the audience of the situation as much as Paolo. The outlet of information feels forced, and once again, all the typical players are here.
Abby is the level headed voice of reason — likely our lone survivor, while is Paolo is our cocky over-compensator. Then there are the members of the tourist group: A silver-spoon inheritor of a fortune seeking adventure, his girlfriend, and a duo of environmental activists. It’s evident the direction this will take with each member of the group living up to their atypical film counterparts.
There are, however, two exceptions; Toshiro “Tosh” Nakamura and Melody, a mystery girl our wealthy debutant brought along unannounced. Toshi’s connection to Paolo remains shadowy at best, and a close shot of his missing pinky finger signals past (possibly present) ties to the Yakuza. Melody will no doubt have some sort of reveal for how and why she came to join Disaster Inc.
Overall, the introduction is heavy-handed and takes up a large amount of real estate in the issue, but there is a saving grace: The Fukushima Fault itself.
Harris does manage to introduce an exciting setting for Disaster Inc. The Fukushima disaster itself is a fictional scenario with real-world ties that makes it all the more haunting. The simple notion that such an accident has taken place in our world makes it evocative, and the very fact that someone is willing to exploit this catastrophe echoes our world even more than we’d like to admit.
One scene reflects how the Japanese government handles the threat Fukushima presents, and the result is poignant, further so with the current state of affairs the world is currently in. There is an obvious commentary here about disaster, humanity, and government veiled underneath the overt horrifying narrative. Still, you don’t have to peel too many layers of the onion to see it. Audiences predominantly follow along with the tour group in Disaster Inc #1, but it’s the mysteries that lie deep within the heart of Fukushima that has piqued my interest.
Disaster Inc. #1 has its drawbacks, but any harsh criticisms should be mollified by the fact that the issue is only a small part of a whole. On its own, this introduction issue feels lackluster, but considering that the issue is meant to set the stage for a more comprehensive narrative, many of its hindrances can be forgiven. There is enough here to garner interest and give the series a chance.