Review by Darren Close
Melbourne artist Craig Bruyn has made a strong return to the Australian comics scene with his new book FROM ABOVE. His debut was actually some 20 years ago in the pages of ANTHOLOGY #2 (he’s been busy designing toys since then).
FROM ABOVE is set in post-modern futuristic Melbourne, and has a great ROBOCOP atmosphere (and humour) to it. The corporations have become all-powerful, and have their own privatised police force to maintain order in each sector they own.
The divide between the haves and the have-nots is emphasised among the populace, and corruption is rife. There’s also a group of super-powered ‘Alphas’, technologically advanced superheroes, and the media’s attempts to demonize them to the public – to keep them down and docile.
The main character, Gabe, appears to be one of the aforementioned Alphas, and wears a body armor suit and hood, with various weapons and the ability to glide through the air with a retractable airfoil. He descends from floating observation platforms above the city, seemingly to protect his employers’ interests.
Craig seems to be a child of my generation, growing up with the influence of the Image Comics founders such as Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri, and this shows through in the artwork. His use of detail is countered by the strong contrast of light and shadow. There’s some great concept art at the back of the book too.
The story is fast-paced, and immerses you into this world by the end of the first page. We’re introduced to the main villain of the book, given a glimpse into his motivations to see that he’s not a one-dimensional character. We also see a shadowy character that appears to be pulling the strings from afar.
It’s also somewhat topical, with people-smuggling as a commodity among the criminal underworld. Craig also uses news broadcasts like Frank Miller did in Dark Knight Returns, to give us some more insight into the world in a concise fashion.
It’s a strong beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing if Gabe remains a corporation enforcer, or whether he might rebel against the system in future issues.
Lastly, I feel the need to say something about Australian superhero comics, and the derision they seem to attract for being “too mainstream” like that’s a bad thing. Sure, the majority of Australian comics would probably fall more under the “indie” banner, but there’s room for everyone in this small marketplace. Books such as Winter City, Kranburn and The Soldier Legacy (among others) have proven this, and are among some of the best-selling local books from what I’ve heard from retailers.
Just because superhero style books might not necessarily be to YOUR taste, doesn’t mean they’re inferior to the independents. They’re just catering to a different corner of the market.
For more information about FROM ABOVE, and where you can buy it from, check out the Facebook page.