Heavy #1 introduces readers to The Big Wait, a version of purgatory where everyone is once again a slave to the grind. It seems like everyone there has something to atone for, with the ugliness they did in the land of the living informing the kind of job they have to hold down in the afterlife. The lead character is known as a “Heavy,” a fixer sent to different realities to “take care of” people who would cause irreparable damage to their own timeline.
This series is heavily front-loaded with big ideas, which makes every turn of the page exciting. This book is a constant barrage of high concepts. As a first issue, it absolutely soars when it comes to introducing the characters and their world. There are different designations for all of the people in The Big Wait, each with their own part to play. There are so many stories possibilities presented to the reader right off the bat.
The other place where the book really works is in the characterization of its protagonist. Bill could so easily be another grim, posturing anti-hero in the Frank Castle vein. In fact, a lot of the story seems to be leaning against the expectations of a character like this. Bill has been doing this for so long (in a place where time has no meaning) that he’s become sick of it, hateful towards himself, and then numb to all of it. Then he’s seemingly gone through those same steps over and over again to the point where he just doesn’t care about anything but getting to cross over. Imagine if Frank Castle was just going through the motions because he so desperately wanted a break at some point. Bill’s existence feels oddly relatable to anyone who has ever experienced a deep bout of depression (y’know, minus the constant bloodshed).
In fact, Max Bemis’s script plays a lot with the kinds of tropes that tend to pop up in a story like this. However, it never feels like the book is telling you that it’s above the type of story being told. Instead, Bemis is clearly running with the readers’ expectations of a story like this, subverting them at just about every turn. This is a comic where I genuinely felt like I didn’t know what was coming next, which is thrilling for someone who has read, uh, a whole damn bunch of them.
The issue can occasionally feel slightly overstuffed, but it has a lot of ground to cover in terms of setting up the concept and the main character. The dialogue is very snappy, with plenty of jokes at the expense of the very genre of comic books. However, instead of feeling like a pretentious deconstruction of the medium, it feels like Bemis is telling the reader, “We all know how these stories usually go, but here’s how I’m going to tell it.”
Eryk Donovan’s artwork is sublime, bringing the outlandish script to life. The designs of The Big Wait’s architecture is a mix of futuristic/space age buildings and mundane offices, showing what an incredible operation this is, but also driving home how tired of it all Bill has become. Action sequences are dynamic and exciting, with some precise line work that makes it easy to keep up with what’s happening in even the weirdest sequences. Ever wondered what a machine designed to rip out a colon looks like? Donovan has you covered. Even though we never see it in action, it’s given a hilarious design when it could so easily have been just a throwaway gag.
However, the book also looks grounded when it needs to be, selling the human drama of Bill’s depressive situation, but it also gets very cartoonish on occasion, with characters’ faces caving in with punches like something out of the most graphic Looney Tunes short imaginable.
It’s a great balance that is struck here, and it’s made even stronger by Cris Peter’s colors. The more cosmic sequences are bathed in bright colors, with particular highlights being the different portals and high tech action scenes. Even the gorier sections have a sort of playful vibrance to them, as the red stuff has a bit of a sheen to it when it starts flowing. Every aspect of Heavy feels of-a-piece with the rest.
There’s a lot to digest in Heavy #1, but readers willing to take the leap of faith will be rewarded with a wild introductory chapter. It should be pretty interesting to see how Bill’s mission plays out, especially since it already seems like he’s reached his threshold.