Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK: Cyan #1 Review

This article was originally published at DC Infinite on May 1, 2014.

Cyan - Cover

Anthologies are surprisingly rare amongst the largest comics publishers. Dark Horse publishes the Eisner Award-winning Dark Horse Presents… and that’s about it. The last time DC Comics released an anthology was almost one year ago with the Time Warp one-shot. In that release, all of the stories were themed around the concept of time travel in its various forms. In this new series, the theme is much more vague, but the results are every bit as good.

Cyan is one of the four colors used in the CMYK printing process that many golden and silver age comics utilised. It is reflected in all of the stories within Cyan through a variety of connections, sometimes representing a vague mood, sometimes a more specific focus on the actual color, and sometime both. Despite the vague nature of this theme, the comic leaves a lingering sense of “blueness” with readers upon completion. Whether it’s reflected in tones of melancholy or outright depression, the title Cyan is fitting.

The results of individual stories range from enjoyable to astonishing. The diversity of artists and writers is great enough to ensure that there will be a wide selection of favorites being pulled from this collection.

Cyan - 918

“918” was the first story that stood out, specifically for Ken Garing’s art. Garing uses the main character’s drug trip as a framing device to tell the story of his life. It moves naturally and makes for some interesting panel structures. Furthermore, it builds sympathy for the character in a way that makes the final pages especially poignant. Garing also repeats certain visual motifs like that of the egg and sperm, which work even better upon a re-reading of the story. Despite some apparent editorial tinkering* this story stands out as one of the best in Cyan.

“Much Ado About Nothing” is another story that applies a panel structure that could be considered “gimmicky”, but instead enhances the story. Al Davison’s superstructure of a countdown — where the panels of each page construct a number — is surprisingly subtle at first. Readers may not detect the effect until the second or third page of the story and this is why it works so well. The numbers are reshaped in such a way that the panels largely fit within them and still read in a clear right-to-left and top-to-bottom fashion. Once the countdown is noticed, though, it works to build tension in this metaphysical horror story. The separation between the comics story structure and superstructure eventually combine in a manner that pays off the anxiety created by a countdown. With only eight pages, Nero and Davison do a wonderful job of tying every piece of their story together, so that the comic resonates around a single, terrifying idea.

Cyan - Wonders

The final comic featured in Cyan has the smallest sense of scope or drama, but stands out as the best entry of the collection. “Breaking News Of The Wonders The Future Holds” is written and illustrated by Fabio Moon, one of the true greats working in comics today. It is a slice of life story that juxtaposes cyan elements, both literal and metaphorical, against the human spirits. Snow, a closing business, the cold treatment of art: all of these elements work together to create a world that should be disheartening. Moon works to subvert the blue mood with two characters that are irrepressibly human and optimistic. The story is anecdotal in nature, but upholds human values of creativity and positivity as having immense power. “Breaking News…” is both subtle and powerful. Moon’s story is a beautiful capstone to this volume.

Each of the nine stories contained in Cyan has something to say and, in return, is worth discussing. The diversity of style and genre will keep readers consistently engaged and flipping through the varied pages. Anthologies rely upon the quality of many creators and that is why Cyan succeeds in such spectacular fashion. All of the artists, writers, letters, and colorists involved here are craftsmen who care about the comics they create. The combined diversity and quality of the stories in Cyan should make it a comic that appeals to new readers, experienced pros, and anyone else with an interest in the medium.

If the same level of talent is involved with future issues of CMYK, then the series may be in a position to steal the Eisner from Dark Horse Presents in 2015.

Score: 9/10

* Writer’s Note: There is one important external factor to address about this release. The CMYK anthology series has been solicited as collecting “original stories” from creators. That is not entirely accurate. Joe Keatinge who wrote the story “918” has stated that “our story and my dialog were drastically altered, specifically our ending.”

You can read Keatinge’s full statement here.

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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