Spontaneous #1

Spontaneous #1 By Joe Harris, Brett Weldele, Douglas E. Sherwood, Keith Wood.
By Joe Harris, Brett Weldele, Douglas E. Sherwood, Keith Wood

Spontaneous is an uncomfortable comic to look at. This is mainly because the art of Brett Weldele reminds me of a collection of poorly exposed and processed photographs. That might be the intent behind it. Not that the characters are drawn in a naturalistic style, but they're painted in a grainy, dichromatic scheme of warmer earth tones contrasted with cooler blues and grays. It gives the impression that everything is either lit by artificial light sources or their own weird inner glow. And the images in the panels look like they were captured by an unsteady hand-held camera. Weldele's sketchy line and minimal backgrounds make his environments appear truly oppressive. It casts the story into the midst of very murky territory, similar to that of The X-Files.

Into this setting wander the comic's equivalents for agents Mulder and Scully trying to solve the riddle of Spontaneous Human Combustion. Melvin Reyes is a young man haunted and driven by a childhood tragedy. He has spent his life tracking spontaneous combustion cases, and appears to have developed some pretty well-defined theories as to how to spot potential victims. But so far he's kept a low profile instead of sharing his ideas with the public. He's smart and observant, but he's a bit of a creep, and might be harboring his own pyromaniac tendencies. Taking him out of his routine is a chance meeting with self-styled "investigative reporter at large" Emily Durschmiller. She decides to make Melvin her story, over his loud objections. Writer Joe Harris imbues this ambitious, if misguided, character a number of eccentricities. For example, she commandeers a local diner and it's wait staff as her own personal office. And she wields a Graflex camera like she lives much closer to 1911 than to 2011. She wants to be Lois Lane or Hunter Thompson, but she's trying too hard, and clearly in over her head. At least she doesn't wear a fedora with a press pass stuck to it.

It's an amusing setup that could be adapted to other paranormal mysteries once the initial SHC premise plays out. But for now, Melvin isn't a strong enough partner to counterbalance Emily's ebullience. Both characters are still works in progress, although they're not without their charms. And the cliffhanger ending makes it difficult to not want to see what happens in the next issue.