“Apocalypse Kinda” #1 introduces us to Tobe, a young boy struggling to make ends meet and save his best friend. Meanwhile, there’s a bit of a weird portal thing messing with reality, and a political war heating up. Nothing major. Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
Script: Luke Wehner
Art: Enrico Orlandi
Letters: Reed Hinckley-Barnes
“Apocalypse Kinda” #1 features excellent cartooning from Orlandi and a just-this-side-of-now surreal plot. Wehner drops us right into the post-portal world in this issue and introduces us to Tobe, a young boy who’s collecting cans to raise money for his ailing pet while trying to find connection in a brutal world – online and offline. Wehner keeps the stress unspooling at a good pace for Tobe. By the time we hit the horrifying climax, we’re primed for some weirdness or release, and the cliffhanger seems poised to deliver. Which one? We’ll have to wait and see.
I’m hoping for weirdness, personally.
Orlandi has a natural and unique flair for cartooning, with an economical line and minimal facial shading. Tobe’s wide eyes, expressive eyebrows and pale features say a lot more than his dialogue, and his shift from vulnerable and downcast to determined and furious over the course of this issue feels emotionally valid. We care about Tobe immediately because though he is small, he is determined, and there are more than a few obstacles in his way.
Orlandi chooses borderless panels within straightforward layouts that keep the oddities centered in the content. It’s a wise choice, given Wehner’s work to center us in a somewhat recognizable world. There are a few moments that resonate hard because nothing rings as truly bizarre just yet, and Orlandi excels with some vivid character design. Small details matter in “Apocalypse Kinda,” too, like in the panel of Tobe chucking his phone across his room. The back wall features blue windows with a few diagonal lines that shorthand glass, and the phone screen is turned toward us with the same linework and color. The symbolism is neat, silent and quick, but there’s a lot there if we want to linger.
Hinckley-Barnes does excellent work distinguishing the chat messages from dialogue, and chooses a font for each that’s expressive but minimal. Each (shit)poster has a different colored caption to help sell that Tobe’s desperately trying to connect to actual people and an in-group, not just an endless scroll. Borderless balloons complement Orlandi’s borderless panels, and the shapes are a bit irregular to complement the tall, narrow, left-leaning font. There are a few sound effects that stand out, like when Tobe taps the phone screen or slams the fridge when talking to his father, and the final bike screech spans two panels to signal the simultaneity of two characters’ reactions.
Overall, “Apocalypse Kinda” #1 charms as much as it introduces an uneasy, odd and fraught world. Tobe’s a sympathetic lead, and the final splash promises a lot of good, gooshy fun in the next issue. Fans of slice-of-life books, kid protagonists and outsider stories should pick this one up.
The Verdict: 8.5/10 – “Apocalypse Kinda” #1 excels at creating a sympathetic protagonist, an oddball story and a lot of sustained emotional tension through good comics craft.