Pullbox Reviews Forsaken #1: The Last Days of Us

The city of London in 1883 is a dangerous place. A hooded and masked figure uses the rooftops on his way to commit murder. A backroom deal is made with a man called the “Trader”, & a rare statue oozing dark power is acquired. A family waits in terror as their possessed child hovers above her bed, hostess to a being not of this earth. All things being equal, I’d just as soon take my chances with plain old ordinary modern-day violence. Luckily, we get to experience all of the thrills & chills of the Merry Ol’ England of Forsaken by the safety of the page.

As supernatural adventure/horror stories go, this is off to a fantastic start. Writer Sebastian Suarez introduces a lot of characters and situations in this opening issue, but doesn’t give anything away. His approach to world building lets the reader learn the ins & outs as the story moves along, instead of taking the much less engaging route of excessive exposition. The hooded killer lurking above the London streets proclaims a “Great Work” has begun, and we’re left wondering whether his actions are for the greater good or if he’s got dark intentions. We learn that everything creepy is not out to kill us… yet… but we’re not really told why. We’ve met some major players, characters with hints of history built into them and promising to be more than two dimensional placeholders on the page, but no one’s wearing a nametag proclaiming “Hi, I’m the bad guy”. The way Suarez puts it all together, without just laying it all out right away, builds mystery into foundation on which Forsaken is built.

Assisting with the tone and attitude of the book is the artistic team of Francisco Paronzini and Diego Fiorucci. Combining some very cool character designs with hints of well scripted and dynamic action to come, Paronzini brings a very different Victorian era London to the page. We’re used to seeing magic wielded by medieval wizards in pointy hats, but there’s something about seeing the supernatural elements executed at a time when electricity & radio technology were on the rise. Visually, Paronzini handles the work like a champ, leaning into a steampunk sort of look that works to impart an attitude to a story that’s not steamy or punky. Okay, I take that back… there is a bit of steam, but that’s less about genre and more to do with a scene that earns Forsaken a “mature themes” tag. Uh… just for the record, Paronizini handles those bits very well, also.

Diego Fiorucci takes the illustrations and fills the world with depth and color. Every scene is set apart by a subtle shift in the palette being used, and every setting has its own visual flavor. The nighttime streets of London are gray and smoky. The unearthly glow surrounding a possessed little girl carries more than an ounce of menace and helps set one of this issue’s highlight scenes apart from the rest. Fiorucci could have gone off the rails with the use of shadows, obscuring everything and going for full on doom & gloom, but instead went with a subtler approach. The panels are plainly visible, with shadows playing a part but not blocking out the action. It’s another spin on the “show, don’t tell” approach that I love, giving readers the chance to take it all in and decide for themselves where the spooks are lurking.

Forsaken #1 is about as good an opening issue as I’ve seen in a while. Where many first issues suffer from having to introduce entire worlds and establish the concepts being explored, this approach scratches the surface of what looks to be a deeply layered story with a sense of history and consequences. We aren’t given everything we need to determine what Forsaken is about, but I was given enough to leave me wanting to know more and looking forward to the trip.

Final Score: 11/13

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