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Review – Oliver #2 (Image Comics)

Oliver #2
Overall
7.8/10
7.8/10
  • Writing - 8/10
    8/10
  • Art - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Overall - 7.8/10
    7.8/10
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Summary

Writer: Gary Whitta
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Logo & Production: Drew Gill
Maturity Rating: Teen +
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: February 27th, 2019

It’s the “take your kid to work” day from Hell as Oliver embarks into the IVC world with Prospero. Betrayals are exposed and revelations surrounding Oliver’s mysterious origins are finally brought to the light. Is Oliver ready to discover who is he really is?

Oliver #2 Leaves Readers Asking for More

 

Writing

Last month Gary Whitta teased readers with “surprises, like misfortunes, rarely come alone.” Not only was this a lovely piece of foreshadowing; but a clever allusion to Chapter 41 of Oliver Twist, the time-honored masterpiece written by Charles Dickens. In Issue #2, Whitta jumps Oliver two years into the future. His world is expanding, truths about his origins are finally surfacing – and he’s being hunted.

Once again Whitta is expanding on his evolving themes of duplicity and duality. Things are assuredly not what they seem in this post-apocalyptic England. Nor are they with Oliver – is he the hero of his own story or the villain? In issue #3 we’re starting to see flashes of both. This idea is further compounded by the fact that the character ‘Oliver’, is both the main protagonist in Oliver Twist as well as the main antagonist in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

Oliver Cover Art by Darick Robertson
Oliver Cover Art by Darick Robertson

This is a crucial point of distinction, especially since we know that the IVCs (clones) take their names from Shakespearean plays. Furthermore, those names seem to be chosen purposefully to serve as a reflection of their individual character traits. Prospero is the teacher, Banquo is the loyal best friend, and Edmund, we learned in this issue, is the sympathetic villain. It’s an unbelievably clever and thoughtful approach to character rendering while serving to simultaneously eliminate any preconceptions a student of The Bard or The Boz may be harboring. 

It’s no small feat re-imagining a piece of literature that’s held-up against literary criticism for nearly 200 years; ‘bold’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. Gary Whitta is attempting nothing short of an opus, a Dickensian homage infused with Shakespearean flair. At the close of the issue, Whitta treats readers with yet another quote to ponder: “there is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.” Could he once again be foreshadowing events to come? And will Prospero’s revelation fuel the fires of change or hatred?

Art

Perhaps my favorite element of great comic book storytelling is the symbiotic relationship between artist and writer. Sometimes the writing is the driving force, other times it’s the art that makes the bus go. In Oliver #2, it isn’t hard to make the determination as to who is in the driver’s seat – it’s Darick Robertson.

Not only is his artwork meticulous and beautiful, but it’s also ripe with symbolism. A quick skim of the front cover tells us right away this is going to be a pinnacle issue. Robertson depicts a heavily armored guard looking down upon a lone IVC, there’s an empty bowl in his hand outstretched. It is almost as if he’s “asking for more.” This is unquestionably the most famous moment in all of Oliver Twist. Robertson’s choice to immortalize this moment on the cover is an indication to anyone familiar with Dickens’ classic that this is an issue to take note of.

Perhaps most importantly are the panels where we see Oliver for the first time. Once again he is running along the rooftops, jumping and soaring with the birds. The important addition to taking note of is that he’s still carrying the broken broomstick he found in issue one. Robertson seems to be drawing upon Christian symbolism and mythos. The broomstick or ‘staff’ is a representation of power; Moses used it to part the Red Sea and call down The Plagues of Egypt. Birds are a symbol of peace, change, and freedom. Even Oliver’s hair, a beautiful flowing mane of silvery white, seems messianic in and of itself. In a slew of uncertainty one thing is becoming clear – both Darick Robertson and Gary Whitta have ‘Great Expectations’ for Oliver.

Conclusion

Every once in a while a book comes along that truly tugs at my inner-nerd. Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson’s Oliver does just that. I’m positively in love with the idea of naming characters from Shakespearean plays, and the fact that the Shakespearean archetype correctly corresponds with each character’s rendering is indicative of an author with true literary prowess. My only complaint with the writing is simply that there isn’t more of it; the art is beyond reproach. I’m eager to see what’s next for Oliver and excited at the prospect of meeting more familiar characters from the canon of Charles Dickens.


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Jordan Claes

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