Reviews: there is life on Mars – The Weatherman

Published On June 15, 2018 | By | Comics, Reviews

The Weatherman #1,
Jody LeHeup, Nathan Fox, Dave Stewart, Steve Wands,
Image Comics

Another week and another pretty damned fine first issue of a new series from Image. It’s gotten to the stage where several colleagues and I now pretty much pick up any new first issue from Image because the batting average has been so high over the last few years, they really have been putting out some terrific comics from new and established creators. As regular readers will know I have a special fondness for science fiction, so that made it doubly likely LeHeup and Fox’s The Weatherman would make my lunchtime reading haul from this week’s new releases.

We open on a terraformed Mars in the year 2770, terraformed so successfully that if the caption hadn’t told you where this was you’d assume it was any large Earth city, like LA, with sprawls of buildings and motorways. An elderly lady, Mrs Morgan, is sitting at home looking at a hologram, presumably of a family member now gone (I’m assuming probably her husband), when a young red haired woman calls on her, there to give the older lady a ride to some sort of memorial. It looks very much like the sort of memorial people all around our troubled world have become used to seeing, photos of lost loved ones, scribbled notes of love and grief, candles, flowers…

Then Fox opens it out to a powerful two-page spread, the large crowds are gathered around a huge sphere. It’s a globe, a globe of the Earth, but it takes a moment to realise it because it is black, the continents outlined in white. We’re so used to our vibrantly colourful blues, whites and greens of the Earth that this images throws you for a moment, it stops you as your brain tries to process the familiar made unfamiliar. This is a mourning globe. It isn’t fully explained, but from this and then talk of who people lost, who they are remembering on this memorial day, it is clear that something cataclysmic happened to planet Earth. It’s a remarkably, jarringly powerful image carried by Fox’s two-page artwork spread, and LeHeup is smart enough to trust his artist here to carry this part of the story in a way that the words couldn’t (it’s a good use of the comics medium to impart an emotional jolt and backstory in a way only comics could).

It’s several pages before we meet the eponymous Weatherman, Nathan Bright. Nathan seems like one of those guys you either love because of his manic, upbeat energy and zany style and humour or else he bugs the living hell out of you. But Nathan, usually accompanied by his beloved dog Sadie, has a knack for making people forget their woes for a little while, to embrace the now and let go, at least for a short bit of relief, from the awful events that hang over this new Martian colony, and that makes him pretty popular with viewers, even if he does drive his colleagues and boss crazy.

What this happy-go-lucky, seemingly carefree guy doesn’t know is his successful life is about to be turned over – a hit squad is after him, the covert intelligence services are after them, and it all related to whatever awful event enveloped mother Earth. And somehow he is involved, even though he seems not to know it. Is it mistaken identity, is he involved but lost his memory, or does he know what happened and this freewheeling happy guy act is just that, an act to mask it all? And who is the red-haired Amanda that he has a crush on? Just a nice woman who works at his local bar? She looks a little like the un-named red haired woman offering a ride to her elderly neighbour in the opening scenes…

This is a belter of an opening issue: it would be very, very easy to get bogged down in a lot of back story and info-dump dialogue here. Instead LeHeup and Fox restrain that impulse, giving just enough through script and the artwork (like that powerful black globe memorial scene) to let us know a tantalising little about some catastrophic event in human history, one that has cast a long, dark shadow over the surviving population on Mars, but without slowing us down with too much detail, hooking us in. It keeps the pace nice and tight and also serves to bait the hook further, now you really want to know what happened to Earth and how on Mars this live in the moment celebrity is involved.

Along the way there are some nice wee character touches – we see Nathan stuffing his face after finally getting Amanda, the redhead from his bar, to go out with him again (“It was the tenth voicemail that won me over”), suddenly nervous, a brief glimpse behind his always-happy, go-with-it persona, or his relationship with his dog Sadie, who you sense he is probably closer to than any human (heck, most of us can understand that, our furry pals are the best), and I love the way Fox depicts Sadie and Nathan. It’s often argued animals don’t have expressions, we humans are projecting our own ideas of them onto the dogs, cats etc. Those of us who have lived with animals know that isn’t true, animals do have expressions and individual character, and Fox brings that out here in a lovely manner.

All in all this is a very tight introduction, skilfully avoiding an information overload, giving us just enough to start to grasp the background, to get to grips with this new Martian human society and Nathan himself before upending it all, luring us in further with the prospect of finding out more of what happened, how Nathan is involved. An absolute cracking slice of SF comics and a belter of a first issues.

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