Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artists: Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell
An absolute gem of comic book storytelling, Crowded #6 takes pride in its adventure and gorgeous visuals. Far too often, stories involving technology as an antagonistic element are just exaggerated warnings, drummed up to be terrifying (Terminator, Eagle Eye, I, Robot, etc.). Instead of following the typical tropes of evil technology, the series presents us with modern technology and plays with outrageous ideas. It gives readers a world that is both familiar and garish, corrupting what we know ever so slightly. In the sense that we actually do crowdfund and swipe right on things, we just don’t use it for murder. The series still carries a warning, but it isn’t necessarily about the technology; it’s about the way we use it.
Speaking to Sebela’s pacing technique, there’s never a dull moment in Crowded. The story carries the assassination-attempt pandemonium well alongside the intriguing mystery of the characters’ personal lives that led them here. It never feels like there’s a break from the story, just moments to breathe while still moving along. It’s easy for an action series to get swept up in jumping from story beat to story beat, losing readers. This book makes every moment feel natural to the sequence; when cops arrive, guns start popping or romance strikes. Between this and Shanghai Red, Sebela is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers.
The story continues to follow Charlie and Vita as they evade the constant threats to Charlie’s life from Reapr users. They’ve grown closer over the course of two days, despite Vita’s efforts to keep a distance from her client. It’s nice to watch the friendship develop the way it has, especially alongside their backstory mysteries. The series drives me nuts in that it leaves crumbs about Charlie’s life, but hasn’t given away the secret yet. It’s great character work that keeps me invested so I both hate it and appreciate it.
Even side characters get moments to shine in the issue and it adds to the community Sebela managed to build. Trotter and Cam; the teen hackers; and even Vita’s ex Jo get chances to flesh out. But the character I most want more of is the mystery girl with some link to Charlie. She appears for a few panels in the issue, sticking it to her client and hanging up on them. It has to be enough to tide readers over.
Every panel in the issue feels electric, flowing into the next with sparks of life. I can’t praise the art team enough here. Stein, Brandt, and Farrell work serious magic in their animation-like art. You can feel the explosions coming off the page, the fingers being pointed in faces, and the grins characters make. Stein’s pencils are the strong skeletons supporting each page while Brandt and Farrell bring the pages the gift of movement. Watching Vita’s fight with Trotter is a sight to behold since it feels like you’re right next to the ring. There would be no Crowded without this wonderful art team.
Crowded #6 is a great continuation of the story, neatly tying up the first arc while leaving mysteries to solve. The series has more than promise now, it shows that it has what it takes to be great. Definitely check out the first five issues and then come back to this one. It’s early on so jump in while you can because Crowded is a series you should follow as it comes out.
Crowded is an exercise in storytelling about modern technology that is sure to intrigue and excite readers. This issue is easily one of the best.