Sombra #1 Review

Posted July 21, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

Written by: Justin Jordan

Art by: Raul Trevino and Juan Useche

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

When Sombra was announced, I was expecting something akin to Justin Jordan’s Dead Body Road – a high stakes, visceral action book with minimal plot and a little bit of character work. And I was completely down for that – as five issue mini, Dead Body Road really worked for me. Instead, Sombra seems to be a modern retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Which, in all honesty, has me even more excited about future issues. It’s a story that’s been told across multiple mediums – film, video games, prose – and is now being brought to comics. It’ll be interesting to see how well the story translates to this medium in particular.

So far, the translation seems to be going quite well. Despite having a massive range, Jordan seems most at home writing crime books, and thus far, Sombra is not an exception. The opening pages are haunting and concise. No time is wasted on intricate set up – the book plunges into the plot at the earliest moment it can. And it’s an interesting plot, at that, providing a somewhat unique twist to the formula used by Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now/Spec Ops: The Line. It’s kind of a spoiler, so I won’t delve into it, but if the initial comparison turned you off, there is a little bit more at play in this issue.

Honestly, the choice of setting is an excellent one. When it comes to the war on drugs, there are some easy parallels drawn with the exploitation of The Congo in Heart of Darkness. We have yet to see how they’re handled, but the connections are certainly there if you’re looking. I also like the choice to write some of the lines in Spanish – it’s a language I don’t speak, but I didn’t feel the need to toss the lines into Google Translate. Much like with last year’s Victoria, I felt that the language barrier actually helped the comic. Sure, it may break the immersion, but than that’s kind of the point isn’t it?

My biggest issues with Sombra all come from the art. Raul Trevino’s pencils are incredible, but they really don’t fit the tone that the book is going for. Honestly, they would feel much more at home in one of Marvel’s solo titles. I don’t mean that in a disparaging manner, it’s a style I actually really like in that context. In this context, however, it feels a little bit out of place. Perhaps there’s a stylistic reason for it that I’m missing, but for now, I’m not super impressed by it.

Regardless, I think Sombra is a series to watch. This issue was quite good as an opening salvo, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here, especially when it comes to character relations. Sure, Jordan may be hitting the Heart of Darkness parallels a bit too hard by naming a major player Marlowe, but hey, it’s a good story, and one that needs to be retold in different settings from time to time.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.