The Silver Coin, a brand new anthology series from Image Comics, follows a series of people who come into contact with the titular cursed object. Each issue will be scripted by a different writer, while artist Michael Walsh brings the book to life with pencils, colors, and lettering. This first issue, written by Chip Zdarsky, sees a down-on-their-luck punk band experiencing a bloody reversal of fortune, thanks to the intervention of the Silver Coin.
Michael Walsh’s artwork carries this story along splendidly, filling each panel with a palpable sense of dread. This emotion manifests itself in many different ways over the course of the issue, from the deflated feeling of playing to no one to the horrific events that bring the issue to a close. The characters all feel very real, their body language speaking volumes about where their heads are at. Whether they’re high as a kite, about to explode with anger, or weeping at the power of a magically-aided punk rock song, every emotional beat in the issue feels raw and honest, even in the midst of impossible things occurring.
The lettering in this issue is particularly excellent, especially when it comes to the musical performances. The lyrics snarl outward from the performers in jagged lettering, suggesting the band’s frustration and passion. Certain words are given a different color, denoting a harsher vocal delivery. Even though we can’t hear them, we can feel them — and we want them to somehow know that we feel it. That alone is one hell of an accomplishment on a storytelling level, and it makes the rock ‘n’ roll sequences stand out.
There’s a brilliant economy to the storytelling here that suits this anthology format well. Even if you never pick up issue #2 (which I will), this first installment could work as one-and-done tale. Character relationships are introduced and cemented quickly, even between people who don’t interact all that much. For instance, the scene between Ryan and his father communicates years of regret and loss within one terse exchange. The way that Ryan’s dad sort of defeatedly slumps in an out of the scene hammers home how lost this character is, but it also suggests a much longer history to the Silver Coin, one which we may yet get to see.
All the while, the issue marches confidently toward its horrific finale, as though the book itself were daring the reader to step in, to say something, to get that damn coin out of Ryan’s hand. But even if we could, there’s no way he would listen.
If there’s one problem that I had with this issue, it’s that the main character, Ryan, is so incredibly unlikeable that it’s hard to feel sorry for him at any point. You want the band to succeed, but you don’t necessarily ever care if this guy is happy. Of course, that is likely by design, as he is designed to be the type of character that we see get their comeuppance in supernatural morality tales like this. Even so, it can make the book a bit of a tough sit at points, purely because this dude is so punchable. In a way, this is both a problem and a strength in the story. As dark as it is, the ending of the story makes sense as an endpoint for this character’s volatile and increasingly obsessed behavior. You just may not enjoy spending time with him until you get to that ending.
Even so, there’s a sense that Ryan has been warped by years of losing in both his personal and professional life. He’s a real jerk, but these scenes of him before he finds the coin really hammer home the fact that he was on a bit of a destructive path well before he went rooting around in his mother’s things.
The Silver Coin does some interesting new things with an old premise. This is The Monkey’s Paw with a punk rock twist, and I’m totally here for it. It should be interesting to see how this miniseries’ other writers tackle this concept. Wherever the story takes us, I think it’s safe to say that Michael Walsh will shepherd it along with style and dread to spare.
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